Saturday, August 29, 2015

Philippians 2:8 "And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--- even death on a cross!"

Such was the humility of Christ that he did not even count his life his own but submitted to death. This wasn't a glorified death nor was it a quick death. No, it was a slow and humiliating death on a cross. He was beaten and mocked, a crown of thorns was scoffingly placed on his head. His broken and bruised body was not able to bear the weight of his cross as he stumbled up the hill to Calvary where nails pounded though hands and feet to the wooden beams and he was left, stripped of dignity to suffocate to his death. He was able to humble himself in this way because of his hope of exaltation by God. Hebrews 12:2 says, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scoring it's shame, and sat down at the right hand of God." And Philippians 2:9 tells that Jesus humbled himself, "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place..."

Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24) As Jesus suffered so are we. Denying, acting as if it does not exist. Picking up my cross and carrying it to the place where I put to death the flesh. But even as it screams in pain, protest, and humiliation, I must leave it there to die. Why would I want to put myself through this painful act of removing, killing the very thing that once controlled my life? The only reason is for the joy that is set before me. The freedom that dying to self and living for Christ carries, the hope of God commending me, the joy of eternity. Jim Elliot said that, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot loose." Paul said in Philippians 3, "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whose sake i have lost all things."Right after Jesus' command to take up our cross he says, "For whoever wants to save his life will loose it, but whoever looses his life for me will find it."
Philippians 2:7 "but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."

Instead of grasping his position as God, Christ made himself nothing, took on a servant's nature, became like man. In this way he connected with man. He disregarded his position, comfort, rights and reputation in order to serve and to relate to men. For Christ to have refused to put on one hundred percent of man, he would not have been able to completely relate to the people he came to save. Without experiencing the struggles of man, he could not be an intercessor for them. Without making himself nothing, disregarding himself and his own rights to serve , he would not have been able to show the unconditional and selfless love that drew men to himself. It was in this way that Christ and his salvation plan connected with mankind.

Likewise, I will not be able to effectivly influence fellow humans for Christ without making myself nothing, disregarding position, rights, comfort, and reputation in order to relate to the people that I am trying to serve. I must make my self nothing, dying to the flesh, so that Christ can be all of my strength, so that he can work through me. I must seek to relate, to listen and learn, to understand a person and who they are in order to relate to them on the deepest level and be able to effectively serve them.

When I go to Cambodia in a few months it will be necessary to adopt this strategy in order to effectivly communicate the gospel. As Paul did, I will need to "become all things to all men." But now I am in Guatemala and I have this same opportunity surrounding me everyday. I can seek to relate to those around me whether it be Guatemalan people at Kids club or in town or my own team. To connect with and relate to these people requires sacrafice of myself but it is worth it. I must take time to listen and understand in order to relate and be able to effectivly serve. My goal to apply this is to learn more Spanish and also, when in conversation, to seek more to listen to understand rather than just to listen to respond.

Philippians 2:5-6 "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature with God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,"

The creator stooping below the creation. The humility of Christ was so great that in love he did not cling to his position of being God, but stooped to serve man so that they could benefit. Christ came to earth and lived a human life. In order to relate to our weaknesses and become the perfect sacrafice for our sins, he had to become one of us. He cloaked himself in our weak and imperfect human nature in order to be able to intercede for our sin that separated us from God.

But in pride and defiance, we rebelled against him and clung to our lives of sin. Despite this, he humbled himself to our position and served us. He took on the position of man to save us. Yet he was "despised and rejected" by the people he sacrafided his position to serve.

Christ did not grasp his position of God, but in humility and love became a man in order to relate to my weaknesses and intercede on my behalf. He took on my nature to become the perfect sacrafice for sin. In light of this, where do I have room to exalt myself before a brother. He even humbled himself to serve me, in my pride, knowing that I would never realize to the fullest extent what he actually sacraficed. He humbled himself to someone far below himself.

He has asked me to do the same. In John 14, Christ stooped to the position of the lowest servant by washing each of the disciples feet. After performing this act of humility he told his disciples, "...Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a mess anger greater than the one who sent him." (John 13:13-16)

As humans, we tend to look to wealth, or education, or age, or social status to determine our position. While it is not neccasarily wrong to have a position, Christ still had his position as God, we are not to grasp it, cling to it, or take pride in it.  In light of the position that Christ, my Master took to exalt us, I have no place to claim position before my brothers, but ought to humble myself as Christ, who is greater than me, did before me. God himself, in humility, stooped below his position to save me and set me free, how much more ought I to take that place of humiltiy before him and others. This shows how detestable pride is. That i should think myself worthy to claim a position and not humbly serve my brothers after all that Christ let go of to serve an unworthy, unholy creature such as me.
Philippians 2:4 "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."

As a body, we are dependant on on another. "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you!'...But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that their should be no division in the body, but that it's parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." (1 Corinthians 12:21, 24b-26)

How selfish it would be for me to disconnect myself from the body, thinking, in pride, that i have no need of it. I would surely shrivel up and die. No, the body gives life but it means death to self. Because now, as part of the body, I cannot act on my own. As a body we have one spirit and one purpose and of course we have the responsibility to look out not only for our own interests, but the other member's interests as well because as a unit, their well being is important to the function of the body as a unit. If I think that that i have no need of the body, it won't be important for me to look after their interests. I then will only strive after selfish gain and will in that way disconnect myself from the life that the body gives.

But since, as the Body of Christ, we have one spirit and one purpose. When they suffer, I am to suffer, when they rejoice, I am to rejoice. "Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law if Christ." (Galatians 6:2) "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." (Hebrews 10:24)

If we are striving toward the same goal with one mind, there will not be opportunity for selfish ambition or envy within the body because we will be one in spirit and in purpose. We truly will suffer with those who are suffering and rejoice with those who are rejoicing, because their interests are my interests as we seek together towards our goal which is Christ. My application for today is to look for ways to praise God with those who are rejoicing and to bear the burdens of those who are mourning.
Philippians 2:3 "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves."

I cannot help but think of how CS Lewis said it, "In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that---and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison--- you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you." (CS Lewis, "Mere Christianity" p.96)

That is in essence what pride is. When we have distorted and exalted our place. And if we refuse to humble ourselves before man, we cannot be humble before God. Just as it happened it Eden, man, in their pride, sought to overrule God. They took the fruit in disobedience because it promised exaltation, that they would be like God. Their lack of humility showed, not only in their relationship to God, but also in their relationship to each other. Neither of them took ownership of the sin, but blamed the other, attempting to in some way exalt themselves while tearing down the other.

The world screams every man for himself, creating chaos and disunity. But we are called to something higher. When we put God in his proper place and realize our undeservedness  of his goodness and grace, we will be compelled to extend the same grace to others, considering then as better than ourselves. In realizing that before God we have no rights, neither will we have any to claim before man.

The verse right before this one sets stage for the humble attitude I am to wear. Philippians 2:2 reads, "...make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose." As the body in Christ, we have one purpose, one hope. Our mission is to build the body, not exalt ourselves. That is why there is no room for selfish ambition or vain conceit. Because a body is dependant. A body works together to grow. One part of the body is weak where another part is strong. It is a unit. In pride, I tend to isolate myself from the body, seeking to build myself up through my selfish ambitions and conceit, disconnecting myself from the body and adopting an 'every man for himself' attitude. When I refuse to humble myself, and think of myself to highly, I am forgetting the common purpose with the body of Christ that i am called to work together to fulfill.

This past week the Lord has been revealing to me walls that I have built up in my heart that have been preventing me from greater unity with the body of Christ. In selfishness I have built them. Their purposes of these walls vary, but they are all rooted in one thing: pride. My application is to go before God and meditate on his grace that he has given me although I have nothing to offer and then to bring before him some of these walls that I have built, asking him to remove them.

Friday, August 21, 2015

John 14:19 "Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live."
Christ lives. He died, but he has defeated death and now he lives. Because of this, he has given me power also to live to live a new life.

"If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin may be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin--- because anyone who died has been free from sin." (Romans 6:5-7)

"For if, by the trespass of one man [Adam], death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:17)

The power of the resurrection to live a new life exceeds the power of sin and death that once reigned over me. Because Christ lives, I also can live through sharing in his death. The battle of sin can be won. It is to easy to live like it's not true. To easy to give up battling the flesh and think, 'it can't be won,' then succumb, living in defeat. For too long, I have not claimed the power that is mine to live a victorious life. Because of the resurrection, I do not have to live in the shackles of slavery anymore.

This is the power we have: "I pray also that the eyes of your heart my be enlightened in order that you may know...his incomparably great power for us who beleive. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come." (Ephesians 1:18-21)

This same power is mine, the same power that raised Christ from the dead. In sharing with his death, I also can live. I must not succumb to sin in defeat, believing that there is not victory. Although it will be painful and hard, there is victory. "He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight." (Ephesians 1:4) This is a difficult task to accomplish on my own, in fact it is impossible. But he has called me go it and has not left me without the power to live in victory over sin.
John 14:18 "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."

Humans were in a state of hopelessness. They failed. Their choices separated them from God and brought the world into bondage to sin. Our sinful nature put a gap between us and God in his holiness and perfection that we could never try to cross on our own. God came to us. "For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son..." (John 3:16)

I was dead in my transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1), I was shrouded in darkness, enslaved to sin, apart from God. I could never make myself alive by any power that i have, because, being dead, i had none. But God came to me. "But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions..." (Ephesians 2:4-5)

In this passage in John, we see again, man in a helpless position---Jesus, who had just completed this great redemptive work in the history of man, and who would leave the disciples with an enormous mission---to reach every tribe, tongue, people, and nation with this good news, was about to leave the earth. But he promised that he would not leave them alone, he said, "I will come to you." Although not physically, the Holy Spirit would be sent to give them power to complete the mission at hand.

He does not leave us as orphans, left alone, without a Father, he does not look at our helpless state without compassion. He sent his Son to provide a way to be reconciled us to God and drew us out of that dominions of darkness, making us alive in Christ. Now he has sent his Spirit as our Counselor, guiding us into truth, giving us the power to complete the task at hand.

I haven't done anything to provide means to be reconciled to God, neither have done anything to be made alive in Christ. Likewise, I have no power to be "holy and blameless and in his sight" (Ephesians 1:4) which is what I have been chosen for, neither do I have the power to spread the love of God or the gospel. No, he has come and has given me power. He has not meant for me to accomplish this things on my own. James 4:2 says "...You do not have, because you do not ask God." Today i desire to rely more on the Spirit's power but asking him in specific ways for strength for the day instead of going through the day on my own power.
John 14:17 "the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you."
The Spirit of truth. Constantly reminding, always revealing. Light piercing the darkness, exposing. Quenching lies, showing Christ. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." Why? Jesus says in John 8:31-32, "'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.'" Freedom it says. But how many times do I cling to the darkness of lies, afraid of the truth that brings freedom. I am afraid of its penetrating light, what it will reveal. For some reason I think in my heart that obedience is bondage, that death to self only brings misery. But I am forgetting what the freedom of rising with Christ is like. In the words of Jim Cymbala, "To reject God's requirements does not set us free to enjoy our independence. It instead plunges us into ever more complicated bondages." So the Holy Spirit is not only a Spirit of Truth but also a Spirit of freedom, because embracing the truth sets me free.

Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if they Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:34-36)He also said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my hand upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)We see the contrast between the bondage of thr "independance" of rejecting God's requirements, and the freedom that comes giving up our heavy yoke of sin for God's yoke in which we will find "rest for our souls."

"But you know him," I know the Spirit of Truth, he lives with me and in me. The world cannot accept the Spirit, cannot embrace the freedom of living in truth. But I can accept him because he has opened my eyes to know him, i have seen him work around me and I've seen him work in and through me.

This verse shows me a connection between loving God by keeping his commands and receiving the Spirit of Truth. Obedience to the revealing light of the the Holy Spirit will fill me with his presence, setting me free from the power of sin. Today, will go before the Holy Spirit, bringing before him places that have been hardened towards his filling which have been placing me in chains and preventing me from living a life of freedom.
John 14:16 "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever---"

The Counselor will remind us of everything that Jesus taught us, He points us back to Jesus. He urges us to obey, reminds us of what we must do to be a faithful servant of the Savior who we love. When Jesus told his disciples that he was leaving this world, the Holy Spirit was promised in his place to council and to keep the words of Jesus alive in their hearts. He still plays that role today in our lives as well.

"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I said to you." (John 14:26)

"He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you." (John 16:14-15)

When Jesus visited the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus in Luke 10, Mary chose to ignore the business, stress, and worry that Martha was caught up in. Instead she chooses to put that aside, quiet herself, and sit at the feet of Jesus listening to what he has to say. Today, I can not physically sit at the feet of Jesus because Jesus is not physically present in this world, but he has sent his Spirit to council me and remind me of what he has said. Like Mary, I need to humble myself and sit quietly before the Lord. I need put aside distractions and invading thoughts and quietly open my mind to what the Spirit has to remind me of.

"Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." Not only do I need to be attentive to the counsel of the Spirit, I need to be ready to obey. In the parable of the sower in Luke 8, the seed that was sown on hard ground, was plucked away because the ground heard it but did not retain it. That ground hardened itself to conforming to the Word, therefore the Word had no impact on its life.

This study was convicting to me because I realized that I have been hardening my heart to the Holy Spirit's counsel, holding him at a distance in fear of what he was going to convict me of. I read in Hebrews 3 of the Israelites, who, "for forty years saw what I did," yet they still kept unbelief in their hearts that caused them to test God in the desert. God had miraculously led them out of bondage in Egypt, yet "they were not able to enter [his rest, the promised land], because of their unbeleif." Likewise the Lord, has done great things in my life, he has brought me out of the bonds of slavery to sin. Yet he has called me to something higher, a victorious life.

"See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." (Hebrews 3:13)

If I am to live a victorious life, I must rely on the Holy Spirit and be attentive and obedient to his voice. I can no longer hold him at a distance if I want him to change and impact me.

John 14:15 "If you love me, you will obey what I command."

"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrafice for our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1 John 4:10-11)"We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)

In order to love God we must first realize the extent of his love for us.

Ephesians 1 and 2 gives an awesome picture of all that I have been blessed with through Christ, by the grace of God: I have been chosen to be holy and blameless, predestined to be adopted as a child of God, freely given his glorious grace, redempted through his blood, forgiven of sins, made aware of the mystery of his will, included in Christ, given the seal of the Holy Spirit, made alive with Christ, saved by grace, raised with Christ, and even created to do good works.

All of this was made possible because of the sacrafice that Christ has made for me. Because of the richness of God's love and mercy, he sent Jesus to provide the just atonement for sin, making it possible for a restored relationship with God, forgiving my sin, and redeeming me from its power. Because of Jesus' blood atoning for my sin, God now looks on me with favor. Jesus lived a sinless life, suffered and died in innocence to gain this for me. Because of the love of God, he went to the cross

These blessings bestowed on me say alot about God and very little about me other than that I was stuck in sin, but God called me out of it. He does not love me because of anything that I did, am, or have, but because of who he is. Clearly I have nothing before God as it says in Romans 3:10-12: "...There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. all have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." "All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions---it is by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:3-5)

This love is amazing and so undeserved. That he would chose to call me out of darkness and love me as his daughter, and give me a purpose to fulfill, using me to work through others. If I fully realize the extent of his love I will love him also and will obey his commands. What is his command? Jesus says in the next chapter (15:12), "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." Loving others is simply the natural outflow of my love for God. When I truly realize what I have been forgiven and how undeserved his grace and love is, I will naturally desire to pour it out on others. This verse is an if, then statement: if you love, then you will obey. It is not saying if I love then I have an obligation to obey, which I certainly do, but it is just simply saying that if I truly love God, the result will be that I love my brother as well.

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." (1 John 3:16)

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"

The true measure of our love for God will be shown in how we love the least of these. Today, my goal is to spend some time in prayer, thanking God for his great and undeserved love and asking him to help me to grasp it more so that I can in pour out love to my brothers, and think of ways that I can live out love for my brothers in light of his love for me.

Friday, August 14, 2015

1 Timothy 6:10 "For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many greifs."

They wandered from the faith for money. Why? It promised more. It promised satisfaction. They loved it and desired it. They chased it. 'Money brings freedom,' they said. It will enable us to fulfill every desire. With greedy eyes their fists clung to it and they would not let go. They switched their gaze from God to self. From trust in God to trust in money. From seeking heavenly reward to seeking temporary gain. They wandered from the freedom of serving Christ to pursue, love, and serve money. They took on chains and pierced themselves with many greifs.

When the root of my desires is pursuing materials I see the fruits that result: selfishness, stinginess, worry, envy, and ungratefulness. The thing that promised security and freedom has not. Instead it has built many little prisons around me. This 'freedom' is a heavy yoke to bear and a hard master to serve. Money is a master that is always displeased, never satisfied with my service. The obligations I have to serving this master weigh heavy. This is not the kind of freedom that Christ has called me into.

It is not the money itself that is the problem, only the love of it. Clinging to it, depending on it, not willing to let it go. A few verses later, Paul shows us how those who have money can serve God with it, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up for treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."

Life that is truly life. Materialism promises this but results in envy, selfishness, stinginess, worry, and ungratefulness. I must not serve money and cling to it, but hold it loosely, with an unclenched fist, realizing that to beleive the lie that money will provide contentmemt is a prison and will bear fruit to many other sins that will enslave me and keep me from living in the freedom that is in Christ.
1 Timothy 6:9 "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction."
"Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD?'..." (Proverbs 30:8-9).

The pursuit of money does that to us. We desire it to trust in it, it gives security. At least it promises that it will. In trusting in money, I have no reason to trust in God to provide my needs. I can do whatever I want, I can have whatever I want. I. This is all about my desires. Money is the resource to fulfill every materialistic desire. That is why those who seek wealth are doomed to fall into many other harmful things as well.

The biggest lure for me personally for money is its promise of security and freedom. I think that if I have enough, I will be able to do whatever I want, i will be able to have whatever i want and I will never have to worry about finding the resources.

Wealth doesn't give security, only a desire for more. Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, "Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless." It is a trap, whoever falls for desiring wealth, puts himself in this never ending cycle of never having enough, always striving for more. Striving for wealth is not really striving for the wealth itself, but something else. It is really striving for something to replace the fulfillment and security that only God is able to provide. It seeks to replace God. And that is why there is always the desire for more, because it absolutely does not fill.

That is why Matthew 6:24 clearly says, "You cannot serve both God and money."

To serve, is to humble oneself before another, do as commanded, give yourself in submission at whatever the cost. Romans 6:16, "Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one you obey..."

Submitting myself to the pursuit of money and it's promise of freedom and security is serving money, taking my trust off of God and the freedom that trust in his will brings.

I do not need to chase money to find security and freedom. The Lord is fully trustworthy to provide the things, not necessarily what I want, but what he wants me to have. He will provide the means that will give me the freedom to do, not necessarily whatever my flesh desires to do, but what he wants me to do.

For application I will make a list of some of the things that I don't have which I believe the lie that if I do have I will be happy, and bring these before the Lord.
1 Timothy 6:8 "But if we have food and clothing we shall be content."
The idea of contentment to me implies happiness, satisfaction, giving freely, grasping what is around you, living in the present. It gives me the sense of not striving for more but resting, dwelling.

Psalm 37:3 says, " Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture." Dwell and enjoy. Just sit still, soak it up, and enjoy it.

In discontentment, my mind is occupied either with the past or the future, never the present. It is always striving for more, always longing for something better leaving me exhausted and miserable. Discontentment always shows me the things that I don't have and convinces me that I will be happy only when I have them. It does not let the mind rest but hurries by, it is always on the move, seeking but never finding.

Paul was able to say, "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty of in want."

This is truly living with an open hand, being content with a lot of things and being content with little. Paul accepted it joyfully when the Lord gave him much and accepted it joyfully when the Lord gave him a little. It did not matter because his hope was in the Lord. Paul knew what it was like to have a little and be content, then when he had a lot he could still accept it with gratitude without wishing or striving for more.

Today I desire to rest in the Lord, to dwell and enjoy. I have been given much, let me be content with that. I want to live today with an open hand, giving thanks when the Lord gives and giving thanks when the Lord takes away.
1 Timothy 6:7 "For we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it."

This verse just emphasizes how temporary it all is. When I leave this world, what will I have left?

The Lord has been showing me alot today just how much identity I have placed in things other than him. Whether it be possesions, relationships, image, abilities, experiences or approval, these are all things that I take pride in, things that I cling to so tightly, things that I would struggle with if they should be stripped away. All of these are things that God has given me, nothing that I conjured up on my own strength. I am called to use these gifts to build God's kingdom. Their value is temporary yes, I didn't bring them into this world and I will not take them out, but their effects are lasting. They, although temporary in and of themselves, are to be used to make treasures that last forever.

Yet, instead I use these gifts of the Lord for selfish gain. I wrap my identity in these things, 'This is who I am, this is what I have.' I consider that it was I who gave myself these and decide that because of them I have worth. And if they are stripped away, I feel that apart of me has been stripped away. And if I am discontent with what I have, I even loose my feeling of self worth. I think as though who I am is based on what I have.

When I place identity and self worth in who I am and what I have, I am not giving glory to God who has given me these things. I am not emptying myself of all that is me and filling myself of all that is his. I am taking my identity, that i am a child of God because of the blood of Christ, and living like it is not enough.

Who am I in Christ? First of all I have nothing before him and my righteousness without Christ is as filthy rags. I really have nothing to offer. But I have been chosen, accepted and adopted as a daughter of the Father, loved with out condition, died for, given an inheritance, justified before God, set free from the power of sin, made victorious, sacrificed for, bought with a price, redeemed, sought after, sanctified, not given up on, given grace upon grace. None of this is something I deserved, all of it is what Christ did.

I am not home yet. The things to gain in this world will not last. Will I cling to them and use them selfishly or will I hold them loosely, using them to gain eternally?

I have so much in Christ to cling to. My identity in Christ can never be stripped away. I have been given gifts, not to cling to for myself, but to use to make eternal treasures. I will make a list of things that I have been looking to to find self worth and will bring them before the Lord.
1 Timothy 6:6 "But godliness with contentment is great gain."

"If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain." (1 Timothy 6:3-5)

These men, who promoted false doctrines and reveled in disunity, sought "godliness" for their own selfish personal gain. They sought to gain for themselves. But this selfish striving only gained them misunderstanding, conceit, quarrels, envy, strife, evil suspicions, constant fricton, etc.

"But godliness with contentment is great gain."

We hold on to possessions so tightly and wrap up our identity and happiness in the stuff we possess. Part of the western mindset is finding so much meaning in worthless materials. We grasp it with a tight fist, thinking that possessions give us value, make us happy. We do not realize the extent of our dependance on them until we are asked to give them up. The men mentioned above did not gain anything satisfying with all of their meaningless striving. Striving for earthly gain, leaves a hole that becomes more empty the more it is filled.

If I clench my money and possessions in a tight fist, I am limiting the Lord's blessing on my life because my hand is closed, therefore I can neither give blessings or receive blessings. I must realize that the things I have are the Lord's already. There is joy in living with an open hand, not clutching tightly to things, but holding loosly. Willing to allow the things you have been blessed with to flow out therefore leaving room for blessings to flow in.

Grasping things is refusing to let God be all. Am I afraid of losing, afraid that I will not be given to too? "...The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." The words of Job (Job 1:21) remind me of what it is to live with an open hand. Job was stripped of everything so that God could fill him afresh.

 Contentment in all things. Choosing to find joy in every moment. Seeing the blessing. Thanking the Lord in every circumstance. This is realizing what I have. And I already have abundantly more than I could ever ask for or imagine. Paul was able to say, "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things." Paul lost all things, and he gained God. What is greater?

It's great gain because I realize what I already have, that i have it all. It's all gratitude. No more striving after selfish gain, the striving that causes envy strife and friction. Thr gain that leaves me in a prison as i cling to it, asking it to fill me. When my focus is in God, when my identity is in God, earthly things will be seen for their trite value. Earthly gain is not great gain because it only leaves me hungry for more.

The wish for more. It is consuming. I can waste my life away thinking about what I don't have, thinking about how if circumstances would be differant, I would be happy. I cannot let this wistful thinking deprive me of today. I have freedom from circumstances and worldy gain because of my eternal hope. Today i desire to spend more time giving thanks to God for the blessings around me. It is then that I will be more aware of what I have. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be his name.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Hebrews 6:12 "We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised."

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1)

Noah beleived what God said about the coming flood, even though he had never seen rain, and built an ark to escape it (11:7). Abraham beleived what God said about inheriting a foreign place, and left his old way of life and went (11:9). He also beleived what God said about the Messiah being born through Isaac's offspring, and when commanded to offer him as a sacrafice, obeyed, clinging to the promise  (11:17-18). Moses, who had prestige among the Egyptians, chose to forsake it and face disgrace for the reward of being counted among the people of God (11:24-25). And the list goes on, people who clung with expectant hope to God's promises. They were so convinced of these that they bet their entire lives on the promise and the future reward.

Hebrews 11:13 says about these people, "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country---a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them."

Because of the certainty of God's promises of our heavenly reward, let us bet our entire lives on these promises. Let us not look to the temporary gain around us, but run with pateience, counting on the surety of the day that the reward will come.

"You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions" (10:34).

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (10:23-24).

When I was learning to drive, I focused my eyes right in front of the car, trying so hard to keep the car in between the lines. But it didn't work, I constantly had to adjust my car, as it quickly trailed off course. But then, when I switched my focus away from right in front of my car to a fixed point in the distance, my car stayed unswervingly within the lines.

Likewise in this world, this is not my home. I am promised something greater, that i must take by faith and build my whole life off of it, waiting patiently in certain hope. I must switch my gaze off the world and distractions around and fix my eyes on the eternal and "on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:1). Then the things of this world will become strangely dim.

Luke 8:15 "But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop."

This soil was differant. It did not harden it's heart to the Word, but received and understood it. It did not keep rocks that hindered it from growing roots and receiving nourishment. It did not let distractions choke out the truth. Instead, it persevered and "yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown" (Luke 8:8).

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)

Perseverance is everything. Continuing. Putting one foot in front of the other. Consistency. Faithfulness. The way is tedious and difficult. It is easy to quit because it doesn't necessarily take one big task but lots of little things, day after day that may seem trite and unimportant, but when all of these instances and growths add up, the result is nothing that could ever have happened all at once. It is only the result of little steps, one after another.

"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him." (Psalm 126:5-6).

A harvest is promised and that is the beautiful thing. I can know that what I sow will not be in vain. As we sow seeds of discipine, dying to self, investing in the lives of others, sharing the gospel, absorbing the mind in scripture, prayer, we can know that through perseverance, continuing to put one foot in front of the other, there will be a harvest.

This promise of a harvest gives me motivation for being here. This is a time to persevere, prepare myself, grow in Christ. Sometimes it may seem tedious and mundane, but I am promised and harvest if I do not give up. I am reminded of Jesus' parable in Matthew 25 of the talents where he commends the servant, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things." It reminds me that I should not look at the day like just another day, but invest in the day even though it is hard, and focus on the harvest to be gained, instead of the fleeting pleasures of the day.

My goal for practically applying this is to advantage more of my morning devotion and on the mount time, not just to do it to get it done, but to invest in it and seek the Lord. Also my goal is to invest more in my team, in ways such as asking them how their day is going, asking how I can pray for them, or keep them accountable.
Luke 8:14 "The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature."

This is the ground that hears and receives the seeds. They even begin to grow. But the seeds of the Word are not the only things growing on that soil. Worries of life, selfish pleasures, "deceitfulness of wealth" (Matt 13:22) these are thorns that are growing up with the plant. At first they are small and insignificant. They give the plant plenty of room to grow and become rooted and receive nourishment. But the plants cannot mature. Because as the plants grow, the thorns grow with it. Eventually the thorns become a threat, the plants and weeds cannot coexist. And since the thorns remain, the plant suffocates and does not mature.

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money" (Matt 6:24).

Both of these passages show the danger of a divided heart. When lies and distractions and selfishness grow in my heart they threaten to choke out the truth. Hebrews 12:1-2 says "...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus..."

The plants in the parable could not mature and bear fruit because of the weeds choking them out. Likewise if I am to mature into a person that bears fruit to bless others I cannot allow weeds to grow in my heart.

Yet so many things vie for my attention daily. My self seeks to show itself in all its ugliness, threatening to choke out the truth, to mar my vision, to take away my focus. I am reminded of the passage in Matthew 6 where Jesus exorts, not to worry about the things of this life, but to "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well." I must persevere by fixing my eyes on Jesus and being rid of the things that grow as weeds and so easily entangle. My application is to seek accountability from people that will help fix my eyes on Jesus.
Luke 8:13 "Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have not root. They beleive for a while but in the time of testing they fall away."

Matthew 13:5-6 "Some fell on rocky places where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root."

 This rocky soil heard the word, just like the path in verse 12, but it also understood and received it. Yet why did these plants fall away so fast?

They lacked a root. The plant was imbalanced, it had grown quickly and had much to show for on the outside, but underneath the soil it had small and fragile roots. It had nothing to support the quickly growing plant. When the sun came out, though the sun was supposed to be good for the plants and cause more growth, they withered under its oppresion, they "withered because they had no moisture" (8:6). How could they get any moisture when the rocks were blocking the root from growth?

It's amazing how much a trial can reveal about a person. Outwardly, everything may look like it's going okay, growth is occuring, maybe even at a fast rate. But when hard things come my way, it will quickly show the condition of my root system. I need a source of constant strength (or moisture) or else I will quickly fall. If I am letting rocks grow in my heart that are preventing me from becoming rooted and receiving nourishment, when tribulations come, even though they are supposed to be beneficial for me, causing growth, I will quickly topple over from malnourishment. How could it ever bear fruit with such a root system?

Psalm 1:3 describes the godly man, "He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields it's fruit in season and whose leaf does not whither. Whatever he does prospers."

I must constantly press to draw from the "streams of water," looking to God for my source of strength so that I will have the stability to grow and mature when trials come instead of toppling over from weak roots. My goal for today is to spend time this evening in prayer and the Word to strengthen my root system and receive spiritual nourishment so that I will better equipped.

Luke 8:11-12 "'This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts so that they may not beleive and be saved.

"The seed is the Word of God..." Like the seed has the power to be planted, grow, and produce a harvest, so the Word of God has the same power in our lives. Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."

But for a seed to prudence a harvest it must be sown, retained, rooted, and matured before it bears fruit. It doesn't just happen on its own but requires constant care and continual perseverance to see a harvest.

"Those along the path are the ones who hear..." The path. How can seed grow on a path? The path is hard, always being walked over, the seed never having the means to grow as it is kicked around and eventually snatched away. They only hear, they do not retain. But how can they retain if their hearts are hard and closed to understanding, the seed has no where to go, but is taken away, unable to have any effect in a heart. Jesus describes many who heard his parables a few verses before (Luke 8:10), "though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand."

James 1:22-25 says, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in the mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does."

The heart that only listens cannot produce a harvest. Psalms 95:8 says, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts..." I cannot merely hear the conviction of the Lord and not act on it. Today during On the Mount my goal is to listen to the things he brings to mind and set a plan of how to put them into action.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

James 3:17 "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and 

"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." (II Timothy 4:3)

"Always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth." (II Timothy 3:7)

This is how Paul describes those who will turn away from God. They will surround themselves with lies "to suit their own desires." They will use darkness to hide the truth about their sin because they " darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19).

But here we see the products of a heavenly wisdom. This wisdom comes, not from feeding our fleshly desires but from surrendering them, believing the truth, holding our hearts to the revealing light which casts out self. Then, instead of jealousy, selfish ambition, disorder, and every other evil practice that rules a heart seeking worldy wisdom, there is peace loving, submission, mercy, good fruit, impartiality, and sincerity.

These attributes are absolutely not a product of selfish desires. They are from a humble heart who has believed the truth of God's Word and held his life to the revealing light.

This wisdom is, before anything else, pure. It is without worldy blemish and selfish motive. It is the result of God's truth cleansing a heart.

The results of this wisdom are beautiful. They are freeing. No more living in a place of darkness, for fear of what the light reveals. No more confusion of warring desires. No more of self which must constantly be feed, comforted, filled, built up, hidden, defended.

Freedom from self is freedom to live for God. Free to fulfill our ultimate purpose of bowing humbly before the Lord in worship.

And this freedom will be evident in "deeds done in humility": peace-loving, consideration, submission, fullness of mercy and good fruit, impartiality, and sincerity. The wisdom that is truly from God is based on truth. Acceptance of God's truth casts out the self and the lies of the world's wisdom. And there is freedom to live for God.

Jesus said (John 8:31), "...If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
James 3:16 "For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice."

Disorder in purpose, disorder in truth, disorder in unity. These are three things that come to mind as I consider the results of the world's wisdom reigning in a life.

Disorder in purpose. A.W. Tozer said, "God is trying to call us back to that for which He created us, to worship Him and to enjoy Him forever." Since the fall, there has been this ongoing war, this inner turmoil in the human soul between fulfilling his ultimate purpose in creating us or chasing the wisdom of this world. Our default mode is to act on our selfish desires, yet there is still this longing, this "God shaped vaccuum," as Blaise Pascal refers to it, that leaves us restless and wandering, drawing us to God. It is never fully satisfied with anything but God. This is a confusion of desires - the pull between living for self, or bowing in humility before God.

Disorder in truth. Even after a heart separated from God repents, the wisdom of this world still seeks to entice. It is loud and deceiving and it promises happiness to those who rebel against God, to whose who place themselves in control, stiffnnecked against God, refusing to bow before him. Daily it seeks to distract me from my purpose. The lies of this worldly wisdom enter my mind creating confusion. "You will never find victory," "It isn't worth it," "Go ahead, take some glory for yourself." All these things try to convince me to revert back to the life of self, the life of misery, striving to do what I can't do on my own, seeking fullfillment but never finding. I am torn and must remind myself again of Hebrews 12, "...let us throw off everything that entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross..."

Disorder in unity. As Roy Hession puts it, "...the thing in us that reacts so sharply to another's selfishness and pride is simply our own selfishness and pride which we are unwilling to sacrafice." As i feed the selfish ambition in my heart, it brings disunity, because suddenly, I am not looking our for the bodh, but am looking out for myself. Fellowship and harmony are ruined, not only between myself and other members of the body but also between myself and God. Paul instructs the Phillipines (Phil 2), "...make my joy complete by being likeminded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humiltiy consider others better than yourselves." Unity in the body of Christ has no room for selfish ambition.
James 3:15 "Such 'wisdom' does not come from above but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil."

Where there is selfish ambition and bitter envy it is not from God, it has no part with God. There is no reason to boast or lie to ourselves about selfish ambition and bitter envy because it's origin: earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. These three things are all the time pulling at, tempting, seeking to draw my away from the Lord who is the Light - the world, the flesh, the devil. This is darkness.

The true wisdom that comes from God results in "deeds done in humility" (verse 13). Humility, the emptiness of self and the filling of God. God is where self is not. Darkness and light cannot coexist. As James says only a few versees before, "Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?" (Verse 11). If I keep these selfish ambitions in my heart, pushing them back deep inside where I even forget about them, because of the lies I tell myself, 'that is exceptable, that sin doesn't exist in me, this is not really sin,' those places will not see the the light of Christ. Ignoring the darkness will for sure not bring light.

Think about heat and cold. Cold is not really a thing in and of itself, it is only the absence of heat. Likewise with light and darkness. Darkness is only the absence of light. Darkness cannot kick out the light, it can only exist where the light is not. Just the same, where I do not lay down and surrender my life to the light of the scriptures, the darkness of bitter envy and selfish ambition are free to exist.

"If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."

Thankfully, light has the power to kick out darkness.

Today i will spend time reading in the book of I John, asking God to expose sin and make me willing to confess and repent of all that he shows me.
James 3:14 "But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth."

But what if it is instead bitter envy and selfish ambition harboring in my heart instead of the wisdom that comes from God, the wisdom that produces a lifestyle of humility?

Both of these characteristics, bitter envy and selfish ambition root from a proud heart, the opposite of humility. Selfish ambition: seeking owns own, not caring for the interest of others, promoting and taking glory in self, these are obviously contrary to the humble attitude which lives without rights, in submission and service to God and others. And then bitter envy: jealousy of another's accomplishments, dispising the fact that they are not your own, this to is of course, pride. As C.S. Lewis says, "...Pride is essentially competitive - is competitive by its very nature... Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man."

What is to be done when these things are found in the recesses of our hearts, harboring, allowed to remain, left alone? Certainly not boasting or denying the truth. But in my life, these are the two easiest responses to sin, especially the kind that I don't feel like dealing with, the kind that I push to the back of my mind, letting it harbor there. And how do I excuse it? Exactly as this passage instructs against. I have found myself making light of the sin, and I have found myself refusing to acknowledge the truth, that it is indeed sin.

1 John 1:6-7 says, "If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." My goal for today is to acknowledge and write down the sins that I have allowed to harbor in my heart on a daily basis. Then bring them to the light by confessing them to the Lord. 1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." Also I will find someone to pray with me, confessing sin, because as James 5:16 says," Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."
James 3:13 "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom."

In the first twelve verses of chapter three, James writes emphasizing the importance of keeping the tongue under control, lamenting it frequent misuse. " man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison (James 3:8)." Then in verse thirteen: "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show..." Why speak? Show.

When I think of a person who is wise, I think of someone with experience, not one with mere knowledge. A wise man will not flaunt his experiences nor does he feel the need to loudly assert his opinions on others. He uses discretion when making decisions. The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about a wise man and the tongue. "When words are many sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise (Proverbs 10:19)." And again, "A prudent  man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly (Proverbs 12:23)."

James himself emphasizes in the beginning of his letter, "...Everyone should become quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow go become angry (James 1:19)." Words are not needed to show true wisdom, it is shown by lifestyle. There is power in a person who leads by his example, by doing over saying, letter his actions prove his wisdom rather than letting his words destroy it.

True wisdom will prove itself. "Let him show by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom." Humility is the fruit that comes from wisdom. Humility does not seek it's own good, but the good of others. Therefore a wise man's words will not be said to build himself up or accomplish his own agenda. His words will not need to be many. The truly wise man will prove his wisdom by his life lived in humiltiy and service.

Today i will ask God for his wisdom. "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt... (James 1:5-6)." I will strive today for humility in conversation, seeking to build others up with my words instead of using them to accomplish my own selfish agenda