HUMILITY HAS GREAT REWARD….

Spiritual Blog - Humility

Psalm 25:9-10 – “He leads the humble in justice, And He teaches the humble His way.  10 All the paths of the LORD are lovingkindness and truth To those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.”  NASU

 

Although the focus of my message is humility, I feel I must address the fact that the KJV renders the word “meek” and when you go to Strong’s to examine it you find that ‘meek’ might just be the best translation for it appears to be focused on the poor and distressed and the idea is that God will lead them or direct their case toward justice and guide them into His Holy Paths.  Yet ‘humble’ is also a very good rendering of the word in that it speaks of the condition of the heart in which the person is devoid of ‘self-exaltation’ and ‘arrogance’ and demonstrates a propensity to ‘totally rely on’ the Lord.  That person will be rewarded greatly in their time of distress or stress.

We know that the Bible declares ‘vengeance is Mine says the Lord’ and that the ‘meek shall inherit the Earth.’  We know that Jesus and the disciples spoke much about the condition, mindset, or character trait of ‘meekness’ and by that I do not mean ‘timidity’ but one that demonstrates patience, gentleness, submissiveness although some render it to be ‘spineless’ and ‘docile’ easy to be imposed upon.  The Bible’s definition of ‘meekness’ seems to be more of a willingness to ‘turn the other cheek’ although at times the ‘meek one’ does appear to be ‘weak’ and unable to fend for themselves.  But regardless of which rendering you choose in this context listed in the passage listed whether it is ‘meek’ or ‘humble’ it is the identification of a condition of heart and mind where the individual needs God’s guidance, knows it, and relies on it.

Justice directed by God will never satisfy the human thirst for vengeance but will be redemptive in nature and scope.  God’s end is always redemption.  Admittedly, there are times when there is such a refusal to repent that ‘judgment’ involves punishment, not restoration but God will exhaust all avenues to bring about redemption and restoration before rendering the verdict ‘guilty’ and ‘condemned.’ 

The Holy Spirit reveals to us through the words of the Psalmist that if your heart is ‘humble’ God will lead you and direct your case or cause in ‘justice’.  We also read that for the ‘humble’ God will teach His Way!  It is one thing to know the ‘acts’ of God and entirely another to know the ‘ways’ of God.  His ways speak to His character and nature and can only be known through such a deep interpersonal relationship that we develop a unique oneness with Him.  God’s paths are love and truth and if we are a ‘Covenant Keeping People’ and walk in ‘humility’ we will find the Holy Spirit willing to lead us from victory to victory.

God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.  If you sense any self-exaltation or inappropriate pride residing in your heart run don’t walk to the Cross and law it at the foot of the Cross.  Cry out to God for His cleansing and ask Him to purge your heart of that dross and allow the purified gold within to rise to the surface.  Allow the Holy Spirit to enable you to walk in ‘humility.’

May God be with you as you go through your day!

DECISION TIME…

Spiritual Blog - Decisions

Josh 24:14-15 – “Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” 24 The people said to Joshua, “We will serve the LORD our God and we will obey His voice.”  NASU

In life, we have to make ‘choices’ and at some point, most people realize that there are ramifications associated with those life decisions.  Some never realize that and live in such a way as to fail to take personal responsibility for their bad decisions, expecting someone to take care of them and bail them out when they get into trouble.  That is not being a productive member of society nor is it what God expects of us spiritually.

In this situation, Joshua was addressing the people and rehearsed Israel’s history to the people bringing them to a clear understanding that where they were and what was before them was theirs only because of God, His grace, mercy, power, and love.  Joshua wanted to bring the people to a decision and commitment to ‘serve the Lord.’  He gave them a choice – They could go back to the old way of life and serve the gods of their ancestors or be “Moon worshippers” as Abram was before God’s call or they could serve the gods of the Amorites in whose land they were living.   Those were possibilities or they could, as he and his family had chosen, ‘Serve the LORD’.  The people were moved and declared they too would serve the LORD and obey His voice.  They didn’t but they make the choice that day to come into covenant with God, THE LIVING GOD.

Many of us have made the decision to ‘follow God’ and ‘serve Him’.  It is time to renew that commitment and make the choice to ‘Serve Him’ with a whole heart.  There is coming very soon a time when anything less than a total commitment and a resolve to SERVE GOD with a WHOLE HEART will be met with not only opportunity to turn back but will almost guarantee that we fall by the wayside.  There are going to be pressures that come to mankind that will require a resolve to love God even to death.  I am not trying to be morbid but telling you what I know from scripture and what the Lord is speaking to my heart.  That time is much sooner than many believe possible.  Today is the day of Salvation.  Today is the time of decision.

So it is my prayer that you ‘choose’ to serve the Lord with your WHOLE HEART and even if you are faced with death, will hold on to your commitment and resolve. God will never leave you nor forsake you.

God bless you as you go through your day!

THE OPPOSITE OF FAITH IS…

Spiritual Blog - Fear

Matt 8:23-27 – “When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. 25 And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” 26 He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. 27 The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”  NASU

 

 I’ve heard many times that the opposite of FAITH is DOUBT but I would question that based on what I read in Scripture, have observed in life, and experienced personally.  I would suggest that the opposite of FAITH is not DOUBT but FEAR.  Notice what Jesus says to the disciples in the incident.

They were fearful based on what they could see and their life experiences regarding the tumultuous seas they were in.  Their nautical experience caused them to allow fear to enter their hearts and fully believed that they were going to sink.  Their fears would have been justified had it not been for the fact that Jesus was in the boat with them and He had said, “Go to the other side”.  Those two factors, (Jesus is in the boat and Jesus’ command) should have trumped the natural that they were witnessing and produced peace.  SHOULD HAVE…

Jesus had been demonstrating the Power of God to them and giving them illustrations of faith in operation through His words and works yet FEAR shipwrecked their FAITH.  That happens to you and me more than we would like to acknowledge.  I am not suggesting that there are not dangers in life that should cause us great awareness and cause us to take various steps to move out of those dangers and to find safety and shelter from the storm, but we do not have to allow FEAR to override our FAITH or our HOPE in God.  Jesus’ action of speaking to the ‘wind’ and the ‘waves’ was an example to them that ‘with faith’ they could have done the same.

In life when ‘storms’ arise the worst possible condition we can allow ourselves to enter into is a STATE OF FEAR.  In fear, one does not think rationally, normally.  In fear, one is subject to making irrational decisions and while the adrenaline will flow and possibly give us stamina or strength that we would not have normally manifested.  Therefore, our FAITH quotient will be at great risk because FEAR will send FAITH to be back of the room and allow the enemy to get our attention and gain our ear.  That is always a mistake because we know he is a liar and the father of lies.  We need to hear the Holy Spirit, not the imposter.

What I am contending is that when you face a trial or danger instead of allowing FEAR to take root and rise to the top resist it and turn your focus and attention to the Lord.  You will find that instead of doubt arising as a by-product of fear faith will being to flood your being and rejoicing will lift your spirit.

May God be with you as you go through your day!

 

 

EVERYBODY HAS FLAWS THEY CANNOT SEE… (Continued)

Spiritual Blog - Blind Spots

Ps 19:12-13 – “Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. 13 Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.”  NASU

 

In dealing with “negative criticism” and the “blind spot” that our reaction can reveal I suggest that you always ask yourself, “What was or is the attitude of the person delivering the criticism?”  That plays a significant role in how I handle their criticism or critique of my life.  If their criticism was in a spirit of meekness and demonstrated a heart that desired to see restoration and growth, I take it to heart.  They may be correct and may be incorrect, but their attitude and spirit play, a major role in my response.  If they gave it in haughty judgmental spirit, I usually have more resistance.  That can be a problem and if I allow their spirit and attitude to deter me in considering the complaint I may miss something God is trying to speak to my heart.  My learned approach has become, regardless of the attitude of the one issuing the criticism or critique, I ask myself and the Holy Spirit, “Is what they are saying accurate?”  If it is, then regardless of their attitude I receive it as being from the Lord and seek to make the necessary corrections.  I do not change based on every criticism but on those that the Holy Spirit opens my heart, mind, and eyes to recognize as being true and from Him.

The problem for most of us is that it is very difficult to receive negative criticism and acknowledge the truth that criticism is based upon.  We must all learn to allow the Holy Spirit to place the spotlight of God’s love, mercy, grace, and word upon our lives and bring to light all things that are hidden.  I sometimes, seek out trusted friends, people that I know will tell me the truth and share the criticism with them.  If they confirm the validity of that flaw, I take it to the Lord in serious and earnest prayer and ask for help in making the needed corrections.  Once I have dealt with the criticism it is important to ask God to make you free of the potential condemnation that can often be associated with the criticism.  Do not make it you but roll it onto the Lord and receive your freedom.

On the other side of the coin is “How well do you receive cooperation, respect, and the confidence of others placed in you?”  Another way of asking that is, “How do you receive compliments and accolades?”  If it puffs you up that is revealing of a flaw that has the potential to shipwreck your ministry and testimony.  I have counseled parents regarding the seeming disrespect their children have for them.  I have said more than once, “Your children, in a very real sense, are saying to you, ‘I will respect you and have confidence in you, if and when I see you have integrity.”  If you demonstrate a lack of integrity, you are asking your children to respect what you teach them to avoid. That is hypocritical and unfair to them.  Integrity means being willing to stand for and stand in your principles even when it is not easy to do so.  It means being willing to tell your children you are sorry when you have done wrong and allow them to see in you a spirit of repentance.  It means that you are the same person at home as you are in church and everywhere else.  I have found that when I win the respect and confidence of others they will generally do what I ask because they trust me or trust God in me and they want to cooperate and participate.

Another question is, “Can you discipline without an overt show of authority?”  I’ve heard parents tell their children, “Do it because I said to do it.”  I do not have a major problem with that exercise of authority but realize that sometimes, had they explained the why, the dangers, the ramifications it would have had a more lasting positive impact.  Just being in a position of authority does not mean you will automatically have the respect of those you have authority over.  Nor does it mean they will automatically be obedient because obedience is the result of fear or respect.  Most people can receive criticism from a person who has demonstrated the ability and willingness to encourage.  They realize that the criticism is designed to benefit not berate.  Demanding that people obey because you are in charge is a demonstration of weakness rather than strength and suggests emotional insecurity and feelings of inferiority.

As believers, we are to be Peacemakers!  Being a Peacemaker is to act like a Child of God.  Why do I say that?  Because it is very unnatural for us to want to bring peace when we have been attacked.  We want (at least secretly) a pound of flesh!  Peter demonstrated this problem in his question to Jesus about forgiveness.  He asked, “LORD, how often should I forgive?  Would seven times be sufficient?”  Jesus’ response was not a numeric specific but a revealing of the need to forgive and forgive and forgive without number.  Many discussions lead to arguments and create far more heat than light.  Most people have something inside them that drives them to prove they are right, at all costs!  When a discussion degenerates into an emotional confrontation, somebody has to stop!  The one who has to have the last word is the most insecure and certain “blind spot” in that area.

I believe that most people will change their views when they see living proof of a better way!  Therefore, it is important that we share by deed not just by word.  It is important that we seek to persuade through action, not just verbalizations.  It is imperative that we lead by example not do as I say.  We must become those who pour oil on wounds and seek to calm troubled waters.  Love truly covers a multitude of sins!

God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful day in Him!

 

 

EVERYBODY HAS FLAWS THEY CANNOT SEE…

Spiritual Blog - Blind

Ps 19:12-13 – “Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. 13 Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.”  NASU

 

Sometimes it takes more than prayer and personal introspection to discover flaws in our lives that others can see but we overlook.  It may take the willingness of a friend or someone who loves us to pull back the veil and help us see the beam that is in our own eyes.  Proverbs 27:6 declares, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend [who corrects out of love and concern], But kisses of an enemy are deceitful [because they serve his hidden agenda]”.  Amplified

If we are going to develop and grow spiritually to the place, position, and condition that God desires us to achieve we MUST discover those flaws often identified as “Blind Spots”.  Not only must we discover them, but we must address them and take corrective action to win victory over them and remove them from our lives.  That is not an easy assignment and often quite unpleasant.  Most of us, say “I’m human, I make mistakes” but admitting those mistakes is not something that comes naturally to most.  We would prefer to think that we are not flawed vessels or that we have no major flaws and our “blind spots” are only small token things that do not amount to much.  Those areas are often if not normally areas in which we believe we have no flaws because we cannot see them.  That’s why they are called “blind spots”.

In our development spiritually we need consistency, self-discipline, and must use our God-given ability to think and reason.  If we become blind followers of some leader or religion without using our ability to muse and meditate upon the word placing line upon line and precept upon precept we will be easy marks for deception.  It is thinking people that the devil has the most problem with.  I want to identify a few areas and ask a few questions which can lead to a more complete victory and an identification of possible problem areas.

I had a seasoned minister ask me, “Can you handle negative criticism?”  Before I had a chance to say, “Absolutely!”  He said, “No you cannot!”  I was somewhat offended and very surprised because I thought I was very good at handling “criticism” of any kind.  I thought, “You don’t know me that well, to make that judgment.”  The Holy Spirit helped me to realize that “few who are independent thinkers and have a call to leadership can handle negative criticism well.”  I know that some reading this are saying, “Well, I can!”  I won’t challenge that, you may well be able to, but I hope that if this is a blind spot in your life the Holy Spirit will help me help you to see that flaw or kink in your armor.  I know what it is like to be so severely criticized that you want to throw in the towel and quit.  Galatians 6:9 tells us that, “Be not weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.”  The Apostle Paul demonstrated the place we can reach, in Jesus, where we have the maturity and confidence to endure the hardship of negative criticism.  He never allowed it to blur his vision and continued to demonstrate love toward those throwing verbal or literal stones at him.  I recall, a lady in the congregation told me just prior to our pastoral election that I was the worst pastor she had ever had, then I received 100% of the vote.  I asked her about it because I knew she voted.  I asked why she voted for someone so inept as she viewed me.  She said, “Because everyone else believes you are the right man for the job.”  I took to heart her criticism and found that there were areas in which I needed to adjust my attitude as well as my actions.

It is often difficult to differentiate between constructive, biblical criticism which is for our good and destructive negative criticism which is of evil design and has the purpose of pushing us off track and dim our vision and focus.  Recognizing the difference is the key to handling genuine blind spots.  Both can be negative in their content, but one is constructive and the other destructive.

I want to address this more but will pause and wait until tomorrow to continue.  Until then, I pray that the LORD will enable you to be open to suggestions as to possible “blind spots” in your own life.  We can all see the flaws in others, but can we see our own flaws in a constructive manner and change?

God bless you richly as you enjoy this day in Jesus!

THE WAY TO THE TOP OR THE BOTTOM…

Spiritual Blog - Up or Down

James 4:1-10 – “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” NASU

 

In our spiritual walk, we are either moving upward toward Godliness or downward toward wickedness.  This pathway is not a level plane but an incline and to stop is to begin to move backward so there must always be forward progress and that means involvement and action on our part.  I am not suggesting in any way that we can or should try to “earn” our salvation but I am suggesting that our faith needs our works added to it for completion of our growth and development spiritually.

James identifies the reason for conflict in the church and that is “carnality” and “self”.  He powerfully identifies the root problem in numerous areas and that leads him to identify the reason that we are not getting our prayers answered as is seen in verse three.  He further informs us that if we are friends of this world which is hostile to God we are joining in that hostility.  He pointedly tells us that Pride is destructive and divisive and a characteristic that God rejects implicitly but to the humble God extends grace.   He then makes an impassioned plea that we submit to God and in doing so resist the devil and as a result the closer we get to God the further the devil flees because He knows the Power of God and fears God.  He calls on us to purify our hearts, cleanse our hands and stop being double-minded.  James clearly declares that if we submit ourselves to God in true humility He will exalt us.  So the way to the top or the bottom is found in this short passage.  We can continue to allow our own selfish desires to dominate or we can resign as the center of our universe and allow God to occupy that spot.  If we allow God top billing in our lives we will ascend to the Holy Hill of the Lord and be exalted.  If we continue to be the center of our universe we will descend to the bottom. The choice is truly ours.

So as you go through this day go through it with the realization that ascending or descending is your choice.  Choose to ascend by emptying yourself of self and allow God to be Number One in your heart, mind, soul, and spirit.  

God bless you abundantly as you go through this day!

THE ‘IS-NESS OF GOD….

Spiritual Blog - God Is

Psalm 23 – “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.  2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.  3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.  6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD  forever.” NASU

 

I love this Psalm for many reasons and one is that it describes and depicts what I like to call the “is-ness” of God.  Consider to David begins the Psalm – The LORD IS….  He is, not will be, could be, and might be HE IS! Then David launches into a powerful discourse about WHAT and WHO GOD is to him personally and to you and me individually.

Because He IS my shepherd “want or a sense of neediness is banished.”  Because He IS my shepherd I am led to the quiet refreshing waters to restore my soul, directed to the lush green pastures for the sustenance of life that I so desperately need.  Because He IS my shepherd I am led into and kept on the path of righteousness.  No matter what I face the “is-ness” of God protects, defends, provides, and guide me.  Because He IS my shepherd “fear” is dismissed because of His presence.  His power sustains and comforts me.  A banquet is prepared for me while surrounded by a host of adversaries and my head is anointed with the Holy Oil of the Spirit of God and my cup overflows so that others are blessed in my being blessed.  Because He IS my shepherd the goodness and mercy of God follow me; like a newborn lamb follows its mother and I have permanent residence in God’s presence.

So when I read this Psalm I read of God’s IS-NESS and my heart leaps for joy because I know that HE IS and IS a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother and never leaves nor forsakes His children.  HE IS and because HE IS I have hope!

May God be with you as you go through your day!