As you may have seen from my previous writings, the last several years of my life has changed to within myself a very specific conviction towards valuing in the utmost, our relationship with each other. It began in a men’s study I was involved with and the reading of a book called, “The Exemplary Husband.” One of the chapters was about relationship. As men we tend to build in our lives priorities. Sometimes our priorities are skewed in that work is our main priority, then family, maybe sports, our friends, and the like. Then we become a Christian and we are told that God should be first, then our wives, our family, our church… You know, we have a more sensible priority list. This book introduced the idea that it is not the things in themselves that have the priority, but the relationships. We should look at it as: Our relationship with God is priority one, then our relationship with our wives, and so on. Another thing I learned in this group was that the reason marriage was so sacred is because our relationship symbolizes the relationship of God within Himself or furthermore, between Christ and us.
Tonight, we initially looked at the creation and how God called all things good until he looked at what was missing or unfulfilled in Adam, and that was he was not in relationship. Being in relationship is the reason God created us. He said that He was making man in His image and in that was the relationship God had with Himself. In the Godhead, God is complete through the relationship He has with Himself. Ponder that for a time. Dwell on it. He did not need to make us, but made us to glorify Him in our relationship with Him and in our relationship with each other. One of the most beautiful poems, according to the pastor, was the one Adam said about Eve. It was not about Eve, but about himself. “Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” Adam, in his relationship with Eve saw himself. He saw himself fulfilled in Eve. He was fully created for the purpose of relationship and now saw that through Eve, seeing himself fully in that. Does that make sense? Well, look at it this way: when Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from God, that relationship was broken, they covered themselves up, hid from each other, and we’ve been doing it ever since. We are not fulfilling our purpose, we are not knowing ourselves except through the relationship of each other and in God. Because of the sin in this world we are constantly hiding from ourselves and from others. We fear being truly known. We are broken and our relationships are broken.
We need to remember the gospel and our purpose in fulfilling the gospel in its freedom and it’s relationship. We need to know that there are two things that ruin our relationships mentioned in Galatians 5:26, “Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.” It is the challenging and envying one another that ruins relationships. To challenge means we look down on others, thinking ourselves superior, it is always a negative connotation and never about spurring on others. When we envy, we look up at others and are bitter for what they have or who they are, we feel inferior. Superiority or inferiority are the two things that destroy a relationship. The relationship here between relationship with each other and the freedom we have because of the gospel is this superiority and inferiority. When we think that we are superior we know we can do the things that please God. When we are inferior we are always ashamed at our failures and think we are horrible people. Because of our superior or inferior thoughts we cannot have the true relationship with God that we should have, that we were made for; it breaks our relationship with Him.
So how did we get this way in that we always compare ourselves to each other? The answer is also in the verse, our boastfulness. This word means empty glory. We try to glorify ourselves because the emptiness we have. We fill ourselves with glorying successes or the failures we have in trying. In the sin that sprang from that first sin we are hollow because of our unfulfilled purpose, so we constantly try to fill ourselves with things that don’t fulfill, and furthermore, we boast in that, creating feelings of superiority or inferiority in ourselves and others. Something inside us makes us believe we’re not great, so we have to boast about our greatness. So again, it comes down to the brokenness of our relationship due to our superiority or inferiority.
Look at what Christ says in Matthew 7, “I never knew you.” In that he wasn’t saying they weren’t good enough or humble enough, but that He didn’t know them. The final exam, as you might say, is about how much He knew us.
We look at psychology and it ways of solving our human dilemma, and it focuses more and more on that people just don’t see the value enough in us. Christianity says that it is sin and that we compare ourselves to others and it is the cause of all brokenness.
One of the things we also do is look at others and become attracted to people because of what they can fulfill in us. Can we spend a good time together? Will they bring me into this circle of friends? We look at what others can do for us in making us feel worthy or give us the glory. When we do this we are devouring each other. Galatians 5:15 says, “But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” This made me think of Hieronymus Bosch’s depictions of hell, where people are eating each other. This superiority/inferiority and the brokenness of relationships is in many ways a hell we have created for ourselves. When we look at others for what we may gain, we are using them, or devouring them, consuming people for our own gain. One girl I’ve been talking with about boundaries, said that she needs people. Now, we all need people, but when we need them in a very needy way, where it gives us fulfillment just to be around so many, it is as if we are devouring them. That is a boundary she must keep; not to have people around for the sake of your own neediness. I very much understand this attitude. Her and I are alike in so many ways. I see her in me 25 years ago.
We now see because of Galatians 5:13-14, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”” that our only options are to devour or to love, and it tells us in these verses that in love we are to serve one another. How do we choose to serve over devouring? It is by the Spirit of God that we accomplish this.
Philippians 2:5-7 “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”
We are to walk by the Spirit and not regard yourself too highly. Empty yourself, become that servant. No longer look at what others can do for you, thus devouring them, but see what you can do for others.
Self-examination time: 1) Do you give, when there is nothing to take? 2) Do you sacrifice or feel as if you should be served? 3) Are you moving toward people who give you nothing in return? These are difficult questions. The Christian life is never as easy as it seems.
One thing I did ask after. He stated that he had to take a break from relationships, because they are so hard, is that a proper attitude? Even Jesus had to get away by Himself away from others for a time. I love you Jesus, You are my perfect example. Amen!
We had a two-part sermon from one of the newer members in church, finishing it up two days ago.
First one he entitled “Humble Beginnings“. Some of the things I got from this were:
God is humble in its most perfect sense – I thought about how many unbelievers would fiercely disagree with this. He took the example of Kobe Bryant. If Kobe were asked before a one-on-one game with me whether he would win or not, if we considered him a humble man, he would say that he was confident he would win. It’s not a matter that he had such pride he could beat anyone, but knowing his skill, experience and overall strength, it would be most likely he could kick me to the curb. In a way, God is like that: Everything He says about Himself, who He is or what He has done or is going to do, is complete and total truth. Now Kobe, there will be someone who will come around who will be better than him eventually, but God: that is no one who will be greater than Him, He will always do what He says.
Pride is the antithesis of humility – Pride is the thing I believe most of the world sees as God’s major attribute. After all, wasn’t it Oprah who said when she was younger sitting in church, listening that God says He is a jealous God, that she rejected this. Jealousy, at least from the human viewpoint, is a huge indicator that someone has much pride. But God, which there is nothing like Him anywhere, I mean He created anywhere, anytime, everything. His jealousy is not pride, it is that He deserves it, He deserves our devotion, our adoration, He is our all in all, for all, whether we understand it or not. Pride comes through boasting, and God doesn’t boast! What He says, He does.
We need to stop using the phrase “I am so proud…” – Since pride comes through boasting, we should be humbled in the things God, in His glorious mercy, has given us. Since God is not prideful, we should look at the way we use the word prideful. When our child does a great job in the food cooking competition, instead of saying “I’m so proud of Jimbo” we should practice “I’m so humbled that God has given me a great young chef for a son.”
Pride is always negative – Proverbs 8:13 “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.” Amos 6:8 “The Lord God has sworn by Himself, the Lord God of hosts says: ‘I abhor the pride of Jacob, and hate his palaces; therefore I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.'” Mark 7:20-23 “And He said, ‘What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.'” 1 John 2:16 “For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world.” Psalm 10:4 “The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts.” James 4:6 “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Proberbs 11:2 “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs 16:18-19 “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.” Proberbs 29:23 “A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor.” 1 Corinthians 8:2 “And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.” 1 Timothy 6:17 “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.”
How to recognize pride in yourself:
- Pride feels threatened by the giftedness of others
- Pride shifts blame
- Pride says, “I’m sorry, but…” (self-justification) or “I’m sorry you took me wrong”
- Pride can’t be taught.
- Pride has a better idea.
- Pride always questions leadership
- Pride always looks to the great things they’ll do, forgetting God holds the future
- Pride knocks others down
- Pride finds solace in rules
- Pride is stubborn
- Pride picks apart what others do
Some books he suggested was “Till We Have Faces” by C.S. Lewis. For the younger crowd, “Big Truths for Little Kids” or “Big Truths for Young Hearts” I can’t remember which, but both look good.
He ended up by sharing the story from Luke 7:36-50, about the woman who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. A Pharisee said that Jesus wouldn’t let her touch Him if He knew who she was. Jesus told a story that revealed how much someone may love the one that forgives. The point was, is that the woman said nothing. She didn’t justify herself or argue, she was humbled enough in His presence to let Him reveal her love for Him, and that is what we should do: Not fight or justify ourselves, let God fight for us, for it is already won. It won’t always be easy, but we are not to fight for ourselves because the battle is won and Christ in the victory.
This last Sunday’s sermon was called “How Does Royalty Roll?”
He started out by showing where the “Gods” dwelt in the time of Jesus:
A little hard to connect with, right? These creations of humans were magnificent. Even today, royalty are like the gods of our days. The number one search for Yahoo in 2013 was “royal baby”. Here is what the newly born price in England has as an inheritance here on earth:
God doesn’t want us to have things or places built in His honor. In fact, when God gave the blueprints to Moses of the place where they were to meet with Him, the Jews may have been a bit disappointed. After all, look at what happened immediately after Moses showed them the plans: they built a golden calf, a symbol of God. You can imagine them saying, “This god needs our help, he needs something of honor and richness to represent him.” God is uncreated, so He cannot allow something created to represent Him. The Jews may have been those who helped build those Pyramids. They had over a million people in their group, who had taken all the Egyptians goods that God have them give away. And this is what God wanted them to build? A tent?
It makes much sense. We want to make magnificent things in God’s honor, but all He wants is our life.
And so this is how the True God came into this world:
You know, it is hard to find a “humble” nativity scene. Either the baby Jesus is glowing like a star or some magnificent light is shining down on him, stars glowing brightly, lights all around, maybe they are in some structure or such. But the truth is, He started out in a dark, stinky, lonely, scandalous cave. “Scandalous?” you say… Perhaps. The speaker made a point in saying that if we had to go back to our town for the census, we would know someone, we would be among our people, and even more so with the Jewish family back then. There would be a place for us, especially if our wife was due imminently. But scandal surrounded this couple, this birth, this humble beginning.
This God, this single, one and only, true God reached down out of eternity to touch us. The grandness, the magnificence, the beauty, the mystery keeps people away. God came in a cave. He touched those who had to call out “unclean!” He humbled Himself for us. We are His temple. He has chosen to tabernacle with us today.
God bless you, and Merry Christmas
I usually don’t write about Christian living, Christian doctrine or any type of Bible study or prophecy per se, although it does involve itself in some ways in my writings, usually as something I’ve gained through my experiences as a side or end note. Anyway, there are so many others who do it so much better than I. This blog is dedicated to introspection, relationships, humor and pop-culture as it relates to the Christian experience more than anything, but I’d know there would be side trails as well.
First off, I’m am so glad of the change we have made recently to go back to the church we had visited several months back. It is a bit hard for our girls but for the most part, I believe in the long run, we’ve made the right choice. Already it seems, that we have found a niche for ourselves there. We have felt needed and we have needed them. I listen to our pastor and I am grateful that he does not fit the type described in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires,because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” This man, as he said last week, “is through playing around!” This congregation is facing many wonderful works of God and He is moving to us and through us: Praise Him! This is not to say our former pastor was the type from 2 Timothy, it was just on a different level. It was never beyond me, but apparently it was beyond some, as that is the reason the congregation has shrunk, so I’ve been told. However, it is much different here. It is smaller for one: as a good friend who goes there told me, “he has driven away the traditionalists,” which seems to be prevalent in the Bible belt congregations. It has made the majority, at least all I have met, very dedicated to the Lord and what He would have planned for us not only on an individual basis, but for the congregation as well. They are very dedicated to community but not in the way we have seen. You know what I mean, “Bring them to church on Sunday, and we’ll get them saved for ya!” No, this is not the way it’s done where we are now. I’m very excited to see what is going to go on in future days.
Joe, our pastor, has been going through Romans, and today we looked at how we, as Christians, are to look at the world; more specifically, our enemies. The verses we looked at were chapter 12:14-21:
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
So first he gave us a list of opposites, and had us choose what side we believed we were on: uneducated/educated, moral/immoral, urban/rural, logical/emotional, internal/external, fit/unfit, pessimist/optimist, young/old, type a/type b, rich/poor, conservative/liberal. Then he had us think of three specific people or groups who were on the opposite side of us, who we have had some trouble with previously; who we might, perhaps, think of as our enemy.
He then spoke of how in the Old Testament it was “blessing for blessing, curse for curse, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” Because that was God’s system of justice. But because justice was dealt with on the cross, once and for all, it’s now justice and mercy; equally balanced, perfect, because He is perfect. Now we are to bless those who persecute us and not curse. So different from what the world is all about. So, how do we know what that means. How do we know we are blessing those and not cursing. We find that out from these verses.
- Identify: We need to identify with those we see as enemies by rejoicing with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. What is our natural inclination when our enemies rejoice? We want what they have, we want to see them fail. And we rejoice when they do. This is an intentional choice we have to make. Knowing this is what God wants us to do, doesn’t make it easier, but on a day-by-day intentional choice, in prayer and being a living sacrifice to God, we can gain this attitude. Identifying with our enemy.
- Be Humble: We accomplish this by realizing we are all the same; that we are all human, all sinners all created and loved by the Lord. Keep your mind down, on the humble things, associate with the lowly, realizing that every good and perfect gift comes from above. Knowing that there is no one wiser than our God. Keep yourself of the mindset that He knows all sees all and has created every thing, through the power of His word. This keeps us of the mind we need to be. Humbled. We are not better or worse than anyone else, and we are all loved the same.
- Respond Instead of React: Again, this is an intentional, conscientious thing to keep at the forefront of our mind. We want to crush people when they hurt us, when they deal out… evil to us. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Remember that we need not look upon these “attacks” on us as necessarily personal, however much we want to, but keep in mind that the Lord wants us to grow and realizing that these temporary trials are for our own good and the evil we receive comes from the dark forces of the power of this age in this world at this time, and if we are humbled and in the word, we will be slower to react and quicker to listen to His small voice, giving us the time we need to keep the head God wants us to display: Christ. Remember the good things, and the good things are all from God. Amen!
- Bring Wholeness: “Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore, ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.'” It seems that this would follow naturally from the first three. We identify, we humble ourselves, we keep our head, then we keep peace. We know that whatever may befall us will be taken care of by Him who brought us to salvation. It has all been taken care of, and will be, and has been. Praise be to God! We have no reason to take it upon ourselves for He took it all, all to Him we owe. Blessed be the Rock of our salvation! This world needs no more conflict as you can mightily see. Bring peace, He calls us to, bring peace. Blessed are we who bring peace. Is not that motivation enough? Bring peace my brothers.
So, we have intentional decisions to make here. To follow all that we want, or to follow Him. Are you a fan, or are you a follower? It’s time to get out on the field. Do you want to go out on the attack? Well, great! Just do it in the right way. Do you walk away from a conflict inspired by evil? Aggressiveness forgets about the love of God, forgets the good. Passivity leads to enabling. We are called to take up our swords! We are called to be the light! There is a darkness overcoming this land. Overcome this with good. Overcome this with good. It may not be overcome in this world, in this whole, but in our hearts, in the place and position God have given us, good will overcome.
He ended up with reminding us that we need to absolutely, positively abhor evil. Do we do that? Can we really look at our lives and say we hate evil with all our being? Absolutely HATE it? For those of us with children we can love them more. The more we love our children, the more we hate evil. Is it not true? I see that. The times I have a tendency to give in to my sin, I am mentally far away from my wife, my children. The love is gone, the sadness comes, I give in to sin. Love. Show God’s love to those close to you and evil will be far from you. God is love, and He has overcome.
I praise You, I praise You, my Lord and my God.