When God takes a battle stance against you

“Put em up!” two guys face off in a back alley. Their posture is slightly crouched, one foot diagnolly behind the other, fists in the air, they’re leaning forward on the balls of their feet, anticipating the other’s move.

Two cowboys face off in a duel, they face one another with their guns holstered. Hands held inches away from their guns, twitching with anticipation.

“Take aim” is heard above the noise of battle as a row of muskets are lowered and prepared to send a volley of lead into the enemy.

Different cultures and and peoples have had many ways to prepare for a fight. I’m sure you can imagine some picture in your mind of what that would look like. Modern day warfare might be locking in a target, or plugging in the keys to a missile launch.

I want you to keep those images in your mind. Keep the attitudes and the tension in your memory as you read this verse,

“Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” James 4:6b

That word resist, is a military term referring to taking a battle stance. Setting up troops. Drawing your sword if you will. When you puff yourself up with pride, God is getting ready to war against you. He will resist you in life, and it will not end well.

Proverbs 6 tells us very clearly that God hates pride. He considers it an abomination. it’s listed just as high up as murder and lying. When we act and live in pride, we put ourselves in a position that God makes himself ready to war against us. When we humble ourselves however, he gives us grace.

Search your heart to find any elements of pride. Decide to humble yourself. God takes pride very seriously, it’s time we do too.

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God’s commands have no boundaries

“What are you doing with your life!” I mumbled to myself angrily at the car in front of me. Flashed my brights at him a couple of times. He was driving 25 in a 45mph zone and just slowed down to 10 while taking a turn. I was so done, I had to get to church- ironically- and I was tired of being behind such a slow driver. I reacted poorly, and allowed myself to slip into anger.

My frustration felt justified at the time, but there was nothing appropriate about my behavior in that situation. Looking back, I regret my attitude.

Funny thing is, I didn’t realize how bad my anger on the road was getting for quite some time. It was like I got behind the wheel of the car, and the fruits of the spirit meant nothing in that moment. Reading Romans a little while later I came across this verse,

Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;” Romans 12:10

Wow.

That hit me quite hard. really did something to me to think that that verse, applies to all my life. That annoying customer I have to serve, that person on the internet whose opinion I just want to lash out against, and yes, the driver who seems to have trouble recollecting where his gas pedal is- excuse me.

God’s commands don’t have boundaries. They aren’t just for church and that’s it. They are meant to be applied to our entire lives- every part.

I would challenge you, search your heart. Is there a part of your life you’ve sectioned off from following God’s commands? Whether it be driving, competitive sports, political arguments, or even family disagreements- God wants you to emulate Him. Don’t allow yourself to fall short of what He’s called you to in any situation.

Let’s live out His commands without boundaries!

No Desires, No Delighting

Have you ever felt like you didn’t care about anything. You were tired, exhuasted, and you feel like you are just on the neverending hamster wheel of life. At it’s very core, you don’t want anything. You have no desire for anything in particular.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been there. I’ve been to the place when I find delight in absolutely nothing. Food is bland, activities are boring, successes are empty, and I’m just  . . .  existing.

I read a verse yesterday that impressed on me in a new way. Psalm 37:4-5 has always been a favorite passage of mine, but this time it helped me with a whole ‘nother perspective.

Verse 4 says, “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”

Notice it does not say He will fulfill the desires of your heart, but that He will give them to you. Later on the passage tells us God brings those desires to pass after you trust and commit to Him.

This verse communiates so strongly- God doesn’t want you to be apathetic. He doesn’t want you to go through life not caring about anything. I would pose the idea to you that He wants you to enjoy life, enjoy His blessings, have hobbies and interests.

The latest idea i took away from this verse was that, If you find yourself not caring about anything, then you most likely have not been delighting in God. When you delight in God, He gives you the desire for things. And He does this so He can show His goodness and glorify Himself, by fulfilling them for His faithful servants.

So have you felt lethargic and uncaring for the things in life lately?

Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate how much you’ve been delighting in God.

Why was John baptizing, after Jesus started?

John the Baptist was a great man. He was used of God to do many wonderful things, and turn many hearts toward their Savior. At one point in time, John the Baptist was even chosen by God to baptize Jesus. The scripture seems to suggest that John was a figure in the bible who would call out to people to prepare the way for the Lord.

So in John 3, we find that Jesus has begun his ministry and has begun to baptize people. John, however, is still baptizing. And in this snapshot of time, we see John’s heart, and the perspective a true co-laborer with God should have.

You see, John’s ministry didn’t stop when Jesus’ began. God still had a specific calling on his life. I feel like it could have been easy for John to simply say, “Well, God’s here, I can go home now.” But he didn’t take that attitude. He continued to serve.

Some of his followers even came to him, and they basically asked, (I’m paraphrasing) “What’s with this other guy who’s baptizing?”

John’s reply is perfect.

“Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him . . .  He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John knew his place. He was there to serve. He was not to gain glory for himself. He wasn’t there because no one else could do the job, or because God “needed” him. He was simply in the role of a servant, doing the service appointed to him.

I feel like we can become discouraged sometimes. Maybe someone else seems “better” at ministry than we are. Maybe we feel like we’re not needed. Or we question our place because we know God could do it all on His own.

Let me exhort you, be the person God has called you to be. And seek out to do the ministry God has for you. It doesn’t matter how you think you measure up, or how much you may think God doesn’t need you to do His work. God chose you for a specific purpose. The ministry He has for you was given to you with the purpose of glorifying Him. So take your place in bringing glory to Him, with all your heart!

Are you an expert?

In today’s world we are constantly bombarded by the “expert” opinions of this panel or that scientist. We erect colleges, bestow degrees, acquire years of experience all in the name of knowledge. People dedicate their entire lives to the studying of a thing, and for this they become respected, renowned, and even revered.

In all this, do we examine our limitedness? Do we even know that much? What is the wisdom of the wisest man compared to God? What is the knowledge of the most astute intellectual compared to God? We scoff a the experts of  20 years past, and they scoff at those 20 years more. We seek after knowledge, and we do find it, but does our search ever bring us to truth, or simply another facet of man’s ever shifting flawed perspective on the world?

There was a man who was a leader of the Pharisees who visited Jesus by night. He wanted to learn from Christ so that He could find truth. At one point in the conversation, Jesus exclaims, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?”

Nicodemus was the expert of his day. He was in charge of the religious system, and He didn’t know some basic spiritual ideas. Jesus even chided him for rejecting the testimony of people who had spoke of Jesus’ ministry’s power saying, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” John 3:12

The idea that I’m trying to share, is that no matter how much you have studied, or learned, or how you may be at the forefront of your field, there is always more to learn, and there is always someone to learn from. Nicodemus was an expert, and compared to the wisdom of Christ, he didn’t know very  much at all.

In 1 Corinthians 8, we are told, “Knowledge puffeth up,” When we are rich in earthly knowledge, it can become easy to be enticed by pride. We become so involved in our good opinion of ourselves we forget the God who deserves all the praise and honor and glory.

I would invite you, no matter how much you may be an ‘expert’ don’t allow your experience, knowledge, or education to bring you to pride. You may know much compared to those around you, but you know nothing compared to an all wise God. Remember that.

Do vs Be

Christianity is about who you are. The idea that Christianity is a long list of rules and regulations is completely false. Christianity isn’t about doing what Christ would do if it doesn’t require becoming like Christ. The rules, the spiritual “chores” of reading your bible and praying and doing good things don’t mean anything by themselves.

John 1:12 says, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:”

Think about that for a moment, God doesn’t give people the power to “do good works” or “go to church on sunday.” He gives them power to become the sons of God. This is an entire transformation. It’s not about following God and pretending to be like Him. It’s about becoming a little more like Him ever day.

Matthew 5:48 says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Again, the idea of being. Outward actions are only the measuring stick of our spiritual development. And yet even that is fallible. The Bible tells us that our Lord knows our hearts.

The real desire of God is to purify our hearts, not simply change our behavior. So remember that the next time you pray. Don’t ask God to help you to not do ____. Ask Him to transform you into a person who would consider such behavior unthinkable.

I would say the sooner we focus on who we are becoming vs what we are doing, the faster we will see our spiritual growth.

Is it okay, to be angry?

I’ve always heard it preached, that anger is okay. People would quote Ephesians 4:26, “Be ye angry, and sin not:” and say, “Look! You can be angry, as long as you aren’t sinning.” This made perfect sense to me, and I took it as truth. But in time I’ve come to find another verse not far away, it says:

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:” Ephesians 4:31

Wait.

So isn’t that a contradiction? One verse tells us to be angry and not sin, and the other tells us to put our anger away? How can this be?

On another note, multiple verses tell us to be “slow to anger.” So anger is permissible, but only if you are not quick to anger?

With all of these thoughts, let us turn to our ultimate example- Christ.

It may surprise you that Jesus was angry upon multiple accounts. One time is mentioned in Mark 3. Jesus is about to heal the a man in the synagogue. He challenges the Pharisees ideas and they do not reply. In that moment, He was very angry. It says that he looked around at them in anger. Then, he healed the man.

Notice Jesus didn’t become violent, He didn’t act out in anger. He kept to His purpose. He continued His ministry. He continued to love. And from everything we read in that passage,

He moved on.

I think the answer to the anger question is simple.

In our anger, we should not sin. So that means we don’t lose control. But more than this, we don’t lose our focus. Not sinning in anger is more than just not yelling at someone, or not punching them in the face. No. It’s much more. In order for us to have anger in it’s proper place, we must be able to

Be angry, and still love

Be angry, and still prefer others above ourselves

Be angry, and still have Christ as our supreme focus, delight, and desire.

I have come to this conclusion, which I ask you to consider carefully before you accept. If our anger detracts, deters, or detours us from any objective- it is sin. If we flicker in our devotion to God. If we glance away from His plan for our lives. If we use it as an momentary occasion for pride, it is sin. If we feel anger as a reaction to an affront against us, instead of being angry for the sake of God’s honor, it is sin.

I do not know what kind of anger you have known, but my anger is most assuredly always an occasion of pride. It is always a moment of “How dare they ____ to me.” My anger is always in defense of what I think I “deserve.” True humility and love teaches me that I deserve nothing. And I need no defense.

I truly believe, if we are angry, it should be on behalf of God, and not ourselves.

If you have known this righteous anger, then I salute you, but there is still another aspect to consider. Ephesians 4:31 says, we must put our anger away. No matter how righteous your anger is, it will not be righteous for long, if you allow it to stay. The children of God must not live in a spirit of anger. We must not let it dwell in our hearts. Read the fruit of the spirit, love, joy, peace, longsuffering . . .

Do these all coexist with a heart full of anger, I think not. Let us be like our glorious Creator, of which it has been said,

“The LORD is merciful and gracious,
Slow to angerand abounding in mercy.”

Psalm 103:8

 

Who is neighbor?

People who rise to success seem to have a similar trait in common. They didn’t give up. You’ve heard this time and time again, over and over. “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” The little engine that could and others . . . Our culture, as many others, are inundated with stories, myths, and fables of those who refused to give up.

Giving up is a result of discouragement, sometimes discouragement comes because we don’t believe that our objective is possible, sometimes it’s because we feel like a failure, and the more effort we put into a thing, the more like a failure we will feel. So in the end, it’s easier to just give up and stop putting in effort. But let me pause for a minute, and switch ideas- I promise I’ll come back.

In Luke 10, we find a fascinating and slightly ironic story of Jesus educating a lawyer on the law. The lawyer starts out with asking about the commandment to love God with all of your ability, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus answers his question that if he does only that, he will be saved. The lawyer then counters,

“Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus answers with the story of the good samaritain. If you’ve never read it, I invite you to read it now. (Luke 10:30-36) At the end of the story, Jesus asks, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”

Did you notice the difference?

The Lawyer wanted to know who should I love according to the law. “Who is my neighbor?”

Christ answered and asked, “Who was the neighbor?”

The lawyer wanted to know what was required of him. What should I do? What is my duty?

Jesus answers by demonstrating, it’s not about what you’ve done, or what you do- but who you are?

The fascinating principle here, is that even though the law says “love your neighbor” according to Christ, we should understand that to mean, Be someones neighbor. Be a person who loves.

So let us return to our thought of the path to success. Life isn’t about how much you do, or what you can accomplish. It’s not about finding the absolute borderline of your “duty” and going no farther.

Life is about who you become at the end of it.

The secret to success isn’t about doing something and succeeding at it. It’s about being a person who perseveres until they achieve success. Once we have that in mind, failure does not come as often. If you redefine success in this way, it is hard to become discouraged. If you can look in the mirror and know who you are, that you are a person who is better than they were before, then you are a success.

We can’t control the results of our good work, but we can control our determination to continue good work.

Just like that lawyer learned, life isn’t about fulfilling a specific requirements but about becoming a person who fulfills them by nature. Success isn’t mustering up the courage to keep going as much as it being a person who simply lives a life of perseverance because that is who they are.

Is your hand still in your dish?

Laying in bed, I didn’t want to get up. The sun shone in through my widow, beckoning me to enjoy its warmth outside. And the thought of being outside seemed wonderful, but I didn’t want to get up, get dressed, or do anything before I absolutely had to.

Fast forward an hour or two, I was frantically rushing out of bed, into my work clothes and out the door without barely a thought towards my lack of breakfast. I had wasted my morning because I did not desire to put forth any effort or work into it.

Have you ever behaved this way?

If so, you and I are not alone.

In Proverbs 26:15 we find an example of laziness which sums up the essence of such behavior. “The lazy man buries his hand in the bowl; It wearies him to bring it back to his mouth.”

Think about being so lazy, that you don’t want to give the effort to feed yourself. You might think, “I could never be so lazy!”

But could you?

This is a metaphor for how laziness keeps us from doing the very things which would bring us pleasure, fulfillment, and more out of life.

Do you avoid organizing your living quarters because it would take so much effort?

Do you slack on preparing meals for yourself until the last minute?

Do you skip tasks you know need to get done because you don’t feel like it?

Do you dress yourself out of your hamper instead of your closet or bureau?

Perhaps many of these examples do not apply to you, but do you have unfinished tasks that you are avoiding? Things you know you could do to improve your life, but are slack to do because of the effort.

Imagine if every task you thought of doing had been done. Your work space was organized, your yard was clean, your morning routine was always completed. Think of that book you might have finished, the time you would have to put effort into fulfilling recreation, instead of simply scrolling on your phone, that side business you could have made, those hobbies you could have pursued, that world class vacation you could have take from the proceeds of your book and side business.

Chances are, not all of these are relevant to you. But take a moment and think of where your laziness has brought you. The stress of being late to work. Spending extra money to make up for your lack of time. Those treasured memories of doing absolutely nothing and procrastinating.

Laziness is not your friend.

I challenge you, discipline yourself to improve your life in every area that you can. Banish laziness from your life. Don’t refuse to put forth the effort to nourish yourself spiritually, mentally, or physically. Laziness is knowing exactly what you should be doing, but refusing to be profitable by doing it, for the reason of nothing but your own desire for self gratification.

It’s time we put such a wicked behavior to rest. It’s time we live for God and life for His purpose. We cannot be lazy for God’s glory.  So let us lay it aside.

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

 

 

Spiritual amputees

In all our lives we can feel weak. We can feel emotionally or spiritually disabled. The sin that we’ve been born with has caused us to loose a part of ourselves. We are all, in a sense, spiritual amputees. We cannot love. We cannot have faith. We cannot do good.

Romans tells us, “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

“They are together become unprofitable”

Basically everyone on this earth is useless.

But we don’t all feel that way do we? The rich man feels that he is better than the poor man. The strong man feels  he is better than the weakling. The ruler feels he is better than the commoner. In our own little world, we give glory to those who we see as wise or strong. We erect these measures of status and profitability for our own comparisons among each other. We become disillusioned and blinded to the true measure and standard of God’s power and worthiness.

God doesn’t want to leave us in this false world of fake and useless status, so He shakes things up a bit.

In Corinthians we find, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.

God basically reveals himself by taking those considered weak, and making them strong. He takes the poor man, and uses him to show up the rich man.

He takes a bunch of lowly fishermen, and transforms them into apostles who revolutionize the demographics and belief systems of the entire world. He chooses Gideon, who was lowly in status, to lead an army of very few to defeat a massive army. He takes a life as common and lowly as yours or mine and uses it to make a difference for His glory.

So next time you feel as if you have nothing to offer God. Or that you don’t measure up. Or that you don’t have the tools to succeed. Realize that might just be what God is looking for. God can use anyone. He can use the strongest person in the room. But He seeks out the weakest. He chooses the foolish. He plans to use the ones no one would ever expect, to do the things they could never do on their own. And why? So the world can know all the things they value and esteem worthy of praise are worth nothing. They are all gone out of the way, they are all together become unprofitable. Everyone is useless without Him. There is not exception. There is no comparison worth making between us.

“That no flesh should glory in his presence.” 1 Corinthians 1:29