FLATTERING TITLES…

Spiritual Blog - Flattery

Job 32:21-22 – “Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man. 22 For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my maker would soon take me away.”  KJV

I’ve been called many things in my years as a preacher and minister of God’s word most of them good.  Most of the times, it was out of their respect for either me or the ministry and the calling of God.  Some of the times it was an attempt to flatter.  I am uncomfortable with flattering titles and have long instructed people that it is okay to call me Roy because that is my name.  Kim Clements called me out in a meeting years ago and said over and over with no explanation, “flattery, flattery, flattery.”  At first, I wondered what he meant and why that’s all he said and before I could approach him I sensed in my heart this was a warning from heaven.  People had been lauding me regarding my preaching and attempting to elevate me to a lofty position among them.  I realized that it was the Loving Hand of God protecting me with a gentle warning.  I later told a group of men from the church I was leading that the highest title of honor or distinction they could use would be to call me brother.  Being a member of the Body of Christ, a fellow-heirs with those identified as the laity as well as those identified as the clergy moves my heart.

Here in the Book of Job and the speeches of his so-called comforters or friends, there is little wisdom to be gleaned in their superfluous diatribe and their self-righteousness and lack of understanding of the character of God.  However, Elihu offers a nugget that I find relevant to every generation.  He declared that it was sinful to give flattering titles to mortal men and that he always restrained himself in that area.  If you understand that flattery is rooted in deceit and egotism you understand why God would not approve of it.  Elihu said, that by refusing to give flattering titles to man, he was refraining for saying things about men that were not true in order to build them up, stroke their egos, or win brownie points.  He declared that God would judge that and deem it sin.  That is a very strong statement.

In the New Testament, when people called Paul and Barnabas ‘gods’ because Paul had been used of God to heal a cripple man, the apostles reacted strongly and were repulsed by that ascription.  When King Herod allowed people to call him a god, God judged him quickly and it cost him his life.  In Proverbs 26:28 we read, “A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”  Proverbs 29:5 it declares, “A man who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his steps.”  It is a snare and one that we can easily avoid.

Please understand, I am not condemning, nor do I believe Scripture condemns the use of the title “Pastor.” In Scripture there are references to the pastor, elder, bishop, etc. and that is not that to which I am referring.  What I am speaking to is the apparent need of individuals to self-identify by a title not earned through education or given biblically by the Spirit of God or the church.  In my early years of ministry, it was a common practice of preachers to call each other “doc” although few of them had earned a doctorate educationally.  It was done with malicious intent but something that became a fad and as a result, I witnessed a number of preachers referring to themselves as “Doctor” when they do not have the educational credentials to back that up.  Please know that I am not downplaying education, I have quite a bit of it myself but have not earned a doctorate educationally although experientially I may have gone through enough battles, struggles, trials and life experiences as well as biblical study to experientially deserve the title.  What am I saying?  Simply if you are comfortable calling me or any preacher by Reverend, I can live with it, although I would prefer you simply referred to me as a brother.  I have been called Pastor and the title was not meant to flatter but respect and I appreciated it.  I have been called various titles because of the Gifts of God operating in my life and I resist them because what I do is a function, not a title.  (That’s my personal view).

The greatest honor you can give me is to identify me as a brother in Christ.  We are members of the same body.  In 1 Corinthians 12:27 we are identified as Christ’s Body and individually members of it.  I would recommend a careful study of 1 Corinthians 12 and the functions of the various parts of the body.  I believe it will help you to have a greater appreciation of the other members of the Body of Christ.

I’ve had people speak good things about good about my preaching to my face and although they were sincere, most of the time, if I internalized their comments it would be flattery.  I am simply a messenger, not the message. Like John the Baptist, “He must increase but I must decrease.”  I have instructed churches that I led to NEVER focus on me and ascribe to me such a lofty position that they got their eyes off Jesus.  I attempted to teach them biblical truths and right focus so when I departed that congregation they would not be focusing on me, how I did it, or what I preached or how, but JESUS!   We, who lead congregations, are simply the under-shepherds.  I’m quite sure I’ve had people, behind my back, say very unflattering things about my preaching and my person.

If you are a child of God you are my brother or sister in the LORD and when I identify you as brother or sister, I am not trying to flatter you but recognize Him who makes you special.  I am recognizing His work of grace in you.  If we focused less on position and titles and more on function, I believe we would touch the world much more powerfully.  I’ve said, although not original with me, regarding labels, titles, and tags, “if you go up they’ll fall off and if you go down, they’ll burn off.”  I like the song of the Hinson’s, “I don’t care what you call me but when He calls me, call me gone!”   Give honor to whom honor is due and tribute to whom tribute is due, but do not give flattery it has no redemptive purpose.

God bless you as you enjoy this day in Jesus!

WHAT AM I TO PUT AWAY As a Christian?

Spiritual Blog - Put Away

Ephesians 4:29-32 – “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

 Ephesians 5:1 – “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”  NASU

 What do we have to PUT AWAY as Christians?  What are those things that the Holy Spirit identified through the apostle Paul that we, as believers, are responsible for dealing with in our lives?

THE NUMBER ONE THING IS BITTERNESS.

That is numero uno!  It is the big boy of things that we must deal with in our lives if we are to move into the Grace of God and mature as believers.  I would suggest to you that ‘bitterness’ is less about what you DO than what you DO WITH.   Bitterness is truthfully a way of being.  It is something that has descended so deeply inside our beings that it is rooted in the core of who we are.  It is a state or a constant that too many either do not know exists or refuse to acknowledge.

Bitterness can be tied to an experience and that experience may have happened years earlier and likely did because now the hurt, disappointment, pain has become full-blown BITTERNESS!  Remember that Paul is speaking to believers!  I know that is difficult for some but he is speaking to believers who ‘still have problems’.  He is speaking to people that have brought some ugly baggage with them into the Christian experience.  He could have said, “Hold it!  You brought some things with you that are part of the old life and you are still bitter about them.’  Things that have become such an ingrained part of our being that we often do not even know they are there.  Big or small it was something that you never forgot or let go of and now it has taken root deep inside of who you are and has to be dealt with.   Remember what the Bible says about a ‘root of bitterness’ and it springs up and ‘many are defiled.’

Research has proven that ‘bitterness’ can release poisons into the bloodstream that can be measured in a test tube and those poisons can actually bring on sickness and disease.  We expect that of sin or what we identify as sin but do we really understand the danger of bitterness?

Bitterness never remains buried it has a way of being released to the tongue!  We see it in ‘wrath’ – flying off the handle and rage and it comes from a fire that burns deep inside.  We see it in ‘anger’ – you can see it in the eyes, by the body language but they are nice people and don’t let it out but it is there.  We see it in ‘clamor’ – uncontrolled shouting, loud arguing and no control over the tongue.  They will beat you up verbally.  We see it in ‘evil speaking’ – deliberately spreading gossip and harmful stories about people to hurt them.  In the Greek, it is called ‘blasphemy’.   We see it in ‘malice’ – a settle determination to hurt others.  They may have hurt you and you are ‘getting even.’ 

Paul says – – God says – – PUT IT AWAY!  You do not have to be bound by bitterness Jesus died for your victory and freedom!

May God bless you as you go through your day!

 

I REFUSE TO BE A VICTIM, I am a Christian…

Spiritual Blog - Survivor

Ephesians 4:29-32 – “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

 Ephesians 5:1 – “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”  NASU

 Yesterday we talked about this a little and I want us to move further in this consideration of the mindset of ‘victim’ vs. ‘Christian.’  I truly believe that one of the reasons that we fall into that trap is that we fail to understand Grace.  Sometimes it seems like we think Grace is simply God being gracious to us.  I think the schoolmaster The Law that brought us to Grace has become a problem in that in The Law or any Law says if you behave, I am satisfied.  Grace does not issue that edict but demands more.    The Law simply deals with my behavior but Grace deals with my heart.  I can ‘look the part’, ‘act the part,’ and appear to be Christian but inside be full of filth.  Grace deals with my heart and regardless of how I look on the outside, it is working on the inside or THE HEART!

Grace is not focused on behavior but the Church per se sure is.  We fulfill the scripture that ‘man looks on the outward’ to a tee!  Grace deals with our ‘want to’ and begins the process of change there at the seat of the problem and the core of our being.  Then, when the heart is changed the behavior follows naturally.  Sadly, behavior is too often nothing more than a mask that professors of Christianity wear and hide who they really are from the world but you cannot hide from God!

Notice Paul says, “The Grace has come to you….”  In other words, it has invaded who you are.  Now it is up to us to cooperate with the Spirit of God and allow change to be effected in our lives on the inside.  Grace did not just bring us deliverance from the world of sin it brings us Salvation that takes place every day of our lives.  It brings us daily wholeness!  The Grace of God makes us ‘spiritually healthy’ and ‘whole.’  There is a truth that I won’t get into here but sometimes we are sick in our bodies because we are sick in our heads and hearts.  I have heard medical doctors claim that upwards of 90% of all diseases are psychosomatic.  I don’t know that I would go that far but I do know that our attitudes can affect our health.  Please do not assume that I am saying if you were right spiritually you would not battle any physical ailment.  I did not and do not say that!

Paul tells us that there are some things that we Must Do as believers.  There are some things that we do not just pray about but take ownership of and act on.  We are to put away – malice, bitterness, and evil speaking.  That is pretty radical but the Holy Spirit emphasized the Put Away which in the Greek means ‘make a decisive choice.’  It is like saying, ‘Do it man!  Make it happen!  Don’t pray about it!  Don’t say I will try!  JUST DO IT!’

I want us to look at what we are to Put Away but time and space won’t permit adequate examination so I will stop here and say God bless you as you go through your day!

STOP BEING VICTIMS – – We are Christians…

Spiritual Blog - Victim

Ephesians 4:29-32 – “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Ephesians 5:1 – “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”  NASU

 

The more I read and study the writings of the apostle Paul, the more I am convinced that he saw a life that most professing believers either never see or do not believe is possible.  Paul repeatedly speaks of leaving the “old” world, way, man and everything that belongs to the realm of sin and the fallen race of Adam and moving into the “new” – creation, self, man, birth and encouraged his followers to ACT OUT or LIVE OUT the Christian experience through their new source of Life – JESUS!   His message was one that continually called for those who experienced the New Birth to BECOME who they really are in Christ!

The ‘new birth’ is about the process that happens after the experience of ‘salvation’.  In the ‘new birth,’ we were translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.  We were not and are not the finished product but are in the process of becoming!  So for the rest of our mortal existence on earth, we are moving from one experience to another and being transformed into something!  We are no longer what we were and are not yet what we will be but we are moving toward that goal.  It is time that we allow the ‘newness’ of the Life in Christ to permeate every crevice of our lives and touch every facet and dimension of our being.  It is a passage from the ‘old’ to the ‘new’. From ‘sin’ to ‘total transformation.’  IT IS SALVATION!

Tragically, most have the cart before the horse and are trying to change, shape up, get better, turn over a new leaf, and try harder or something.  It is the incredible need of humanity to ‘earn’ something and ‘deserve’ something.  God repeatedly says, “No thanks!  I accept you just as you are, where you are, and who you are because of JESUS!”  So, it is time that we comprehend and get our heads and hearts around the truth that WE ARE ACCEPTED!  It is in that state of acceptance that God steps in and begins the process of changing us or transforming us into His Image.

When we come to Christ we essentially have to ‘relearn life’ because we have the mindset of Sin in us.  That is one of the reasons that Jesus spoke of becoming like little children.  We have to develop a new way of thinking and a new way of living.  For that to become reality we have to be schooled or trained and that is the work of the Holy Spirit and those under whose tutelage we are maturing.   Too many just add Sunday to their schedule when they accept Christ but Christianity is not that.  It truthfully is RELEARNING how to live every moment of every day of every week of every month of every year!  It is allowing all the ‘distortion’ that is in us to be purged.  It is to allow the ‘bentness’ that is inherent in our DNA to be transformed by God’s Love, Mercy, and Grace!  It is literally having our MINDS RENEWED!

That is the only possible way that we can move from the human mindset of ‘victimization’ to God’s mindset of Christian.  We have to RELEARN LIFE and then LIVE that life that we have learned in Jesus!  You are a “Child of the King of Kings” not just a man or a woman.  You are God’s children and are heirs to everything that God is and has, so live like it!

May God be with you as you go through your day!  We will consider this more tomorrow!

YOU ARE A VINE BRANCH…

Spiritual Blog - Vine

John 15:5-7 – “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”  NASU

If Christ is ‘inside’ then the life that we live in the flesh is His life.  I’ve heard people sing or preach and someone come up to them and tell them how much they were ministered to as a result only to hear the person say, “Oh it was not me it was the Lord.”  While that is true, wasn’t that you on the platform singing or speaking?  Remember that while it is truly the Lord you are the vessel that He is using so do not draw back from celebrating your uniqueness.  He made you like He made you and gifted you like He gifted you so it is “I live, yet not I….”  It is Christ in Me!  You do not trust yourself but you are totally reliant on Him.  He is the Vine and we are the branches or a vine branch!

Have you ever considered the reality that a ‘vine branch’ is utterly useless in and of itself?  If a ‘vine branch’ is not producing grapes it has no use whatsoever.  I believe that God chose this deliberately to teach us a vital truth.  What is the Vine?  Think about it because if you dig deep enough you will realize that the vine is invisible.  It is an invisible life that comes up through the trunk and inevitably produces a leaf that produces a flower that produces a grape!  I have never seen a VINE, but I have seen expressions of it.  Therefore, the Branch does nothing but receive the Life that is in the Vine!

Can you imagine a Vine in the spring and listening to the branches saying, “Man I’ve got to get this leaf out, so we can produce grapes?”  No, the branch just hangs there effortless waiting on the life that is in the vine to flow through it and do the work.  Jesus is trying to convey to us that it is the same principle in the Christian Life.  We are just the flow through vessels of the Life that is in the Vine!    He is trying to convey to us that if we will just be ‘in’ Him, He will do the work and produce the fruit!

Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 when He said, “Come unto me all you that labor and are heaven laden and I will give you a rest.”  The word rest could be accurately translated vacation.  What is a vacation?  It is when you stop working and rest!  Jesus was not speaking to ‘sinners’, He was speaking to ‘believers.’  He was talking to people who were trying to ‘work enough, do enough, and please God.’  So, if you ever grow sick and tired of trying to do enough to please God He is calling ‘Come unto Me, and I will….’  

Imagine that!  Christianity that wants to deserve and earn it has a difficult time with that.  If we have to struggle to please God you have a number of choices.  You can be a Buddhist, Hindu, or any other religion in the word because they are all struggling.  But, if I am a Christian, according to the Bible, I STOP STRUGGLING and allow the Life of the Vine to LIVE and FLOW through me.  “I live, but it is not I, it is Christ.”  All the Branch does is remain IN THE VINE!  The Life that is in the Vine flows into the branch and produces the visible fruit!

So, Stop Struggling and allow Christ in you to produce the Hope of Glory!  Let God live His life through you!   Christianity is a Rest, not a Struggle!

May God bless you as you go through your day!

MORE ON THE GLORY OF GOD…

Spiritual Blog - Hope

Colossians 1:25-29 – “Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26 that is,  the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”  NASU

 

We are continually being transformed into the likeness of Jesus!  As we behold Him we become more and more like Him.  Salvation is not just being ‘saved’ from Hell.  In the Greek [sozo] means ‘to make whole or well.’  The word means to save, heal, and/or deliver.  The Gospel is the Power of God for SOZO or Wholeness!  It is putting us back together or total healing of our mind, body, and souls!

That raises another question “What is sin?”  Oh, I know that the standard answer is ‘missing the mark’ but can you receive that it is UNLOVE!  It is failing to love as God loves.  What does sin do to us?  What does unlove and selfishness do to us?  It literally blows or rips us apart.  That is why those living in sin are so tragic; they are blown apart on the inside!  They are not whole!  But, the Good News is that with the coming of the LOVE OF GOD which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit we are made WHOLE!  Deep on the inside at the core of who we are we are made well by the Love of God!   Life is filled with pitfalls and difficulties but do not despair because we are moving from ‘Glory’ to ‘Glory’ in God.  This is a process and it is not finished!  It is “Christ in us, the Hope of Glory!”

Remember it is not you trying to ‘get glory’ or trying to ‘love like God’ loves.  It is God coming into you and living His life and loving His love through you!  You are the vessel not the producer of that love or life!  He Is!  Some seem to have the idea that if we try hard enough and work long enough, one day we will arrive and make it.  NO!  It is Christ in you, the Hope of Glory!  If you can make it by your efforts and struggles then that places Christ ‘outside’ rather than ‘inside’ and Christianity is an inside job.

One of the greatest tragedies and obstacles that the Church has inflicted upon herself is that we have traditionally told new converts, “You go out there and love like Jesus loved.  You work out your [sozo].  You love and forgive putting aside all resentment and anger while putting on kindness and tenderness.  You go be like Jesus,” as if you could in yourself.  It is not an outside job but an inside job.  It is not you doing it it is Him living His life in you.  It is Christ in You, the Hope of Glory!

When the Bible tells us in Philippians 2:12 to “work out our own salvation…”  How does it tell us to do that?  I’m serious!  It says, “with fear and trembling…”   It is a Greek expression that means:  “You work out your own salvation, with no trust whatsoever in your own ability.”  That does not sound like a matter of willpower or an outside job but an inside job to me!  It is simply allowing God to have full control of your life and watching Him live His life through you!  Yes, you participate because you could resist and rebel but you willingly choose to flow with what He is doing inside of you and through you.  It is Christ IN YOU, the Hope of Glory!  In You!  In You!  In You!

May God help you and me to realize that this is an ‘inside job’ and walk in the fullness of what Jesus offers through the Cross and the Holy Spirit!

Blessings as you go through your day!

THE GLORY…

Spiritual Blog - Glory

Colossians 1:25-29 – “Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26 that is,  the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”  NASU

 

We talked about HOPE and today I want to focus on the second part, GLORY!  Biblical Hope is essential for a victorious life and if the Bible is correct, and it is, “Christ in us… is the hope of glory.”  But, what is GLORY?  What is Paul talking about?  While we could strain at gnats and swallow camels in our pursuit of a definition let’s simplify it to the following:  “The outshining of God.”   I say that because if you will recall in the Old Testament one could See the presence of God.  It was like a ‘light’ or ‘brightness’ The Glory of God reflects the very heart of God.  In simple terms it could be described as, “Who God is, shining forth, reaching out and blessing man!”

Remember Moses?  From way back in his development he had a sense of the greatness of God, but it was not until his experience at the ‘Burning Bush’ that he had such an encounter with the Glory of God that his life was transformed forever.  He was driven from that time forward to know God not just Know About God!  Remember in Exodus 33 he called out for God to ‘show me Your glory.’  God’s response was, “I Myself will make all my goodness pass before you.  I will proclaim the Name of the Lord before you.”  That is important!

In the Old Testament, a name was an indication of the character and what the person would be or was.  It always indicated ‘character’, so God says, “I will reveal My Glory/My Name.”  Then in the very next chapter, we read “The Lord passed in front of Moses and proclaimed….”  At that moment the shimmering, uncreated Light, who is God passed before mortal man and out of that Moses heard God say, “This is Who I Am.”  We hear about God’s Lovingkindness and that is an interesting word which, in a great sense, means:  “I will love you, love you, love you, and will never let you go.”  When God defined His Glory to Moses He did so in the many facets of love.  Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned and come short of the GLORY of the Lord.”  That is interesting!

John identified that Jesus was the Word or the Out-speaking of God that became flesh and dwelt among us.  We beheld his glory!  We saw LOVE first hand.  We saw the love that was not of this earth – – THE GLORY OF GOD!

Jesus continually demonstrated His Glory and Love.  Remember the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee.  The couple goes unnamed, they ran out of wine and that was a disaster in those days.  Jesus quietly did His miracle.  Almost no one knew what had happened.  Why?  So no one would suffer embarrassment.  John declared that when Jesus turned the water into wine it was the ‘first time’ that He showed forth His Glory!

John 17:22 – I find this incredibly fascinating and powerful.  Jesus is praying.  Listen to what He says:  “And the Glory which you have given me, I have given to them, that they may be One, just as we are One. I in them and you in me, that they may be perfected in unity.”  That is more than incredible.  Jesus is declaring that the Glory that He has He has given to all believers.  Christ the Glory of God, the Love of God has given Himself to each of us that we may be one with Him and thereby one with each other.  He is not giving this to us so that we can get to heaven.  He has given and is giving us His Glory so that we can Live Life to the Full on this Earth!

Christ in us is the Hope of Glory!  We are the expressions of God’s Love to a lost and dying world!    God help us to become lights in the darkened places showing forth the Glory of God!

Blessings as you go through your day!