Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. 
I Chronicles 29:11

Greatness, power, glory, victory, and majesty- these all belong to God and to Him alone. Not one ounce of any of these qualities rightly belongs to anyone but to the Lord. When I find my wicked heart craving after any of these I can be sure that I am encroaching on the Lord's territory. 

Yet, consider how willingly God shares them with men. Though these qualities belong to God fully, He bestows them on men. I Chronicles 29:12 says "Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all." So God makes some men rich and some men great. He gives some men power, while to others He gives victory. But these qualities always come from God, they belong to God and ultimately their purpose is to be laid back at His feet as an offering of worship.

God gives men greatness that they might use their influence to point others to Him. He gives men power that they might reflect His goodness by wielding it to give justice to the oppressed. He gives men riches to show His generosity and so they may in turn be generous to the poor, the widow, and the orphan. He gives men victory that they might choose to fight His battles to advance His kingdom. He gives men majesty that they might reflect a portion of His own majesty and in so doing whet men's appetite for the One who is truly majestic. 

So it isn't wrong for men to have any of these qualities. It isn't wrong for a person to be powerful or great. But it is wrong for us to use these qualities for our own means, to make our own names great. And it is wrong for us to desire these qualities selfishly, to spend our lives clambering after and grabbing at what only God can give and what properly belongs to Him anyway. 

I fear I have often been guilty of trying to steal God's glory. I've worked hard to take for myself and for my own ends what rightly belongs only to Him. Forgive me for my wicked desires, Lord. Renew within me a right heart, Father, and help me to use what gifts You have given me to maximize Your glory, Your honor and Your praise.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

That One Time Peter Told Jesus to Go Away

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
Luke 5:8

Everyone wanted to get closer to Jesus. Once, while Jesus was teaching by the Sea of Galilee, the crowds pressed in on Him.  As the crowd inched forward I imagine Jesus' feet finally met the water. Seeing Peter's fishing boat nearby Jesus put it to good use. They put the boat out a little from the shore and Jesus sat down to teach.

When His sermon was over Jesus told Peter to go out into the deep water and let down his nets for a catch. Peter knows this breaks every rule of fishing. There is a zero percent chance this is going to work. Yet for whatever reason, Peter did it. The nets were so full of fish that Peter couldn't haul them in by himself. He called his partners over and they filled two boats so full of fish that they were both in danger of sinking. 

That's when Peter looked over at Jesus. This miracle that was tailor made for a fisherman had given him a glimpse of who Jesus really was. So right there in the boat, knee deep in fish. Peter falls down before Jesus and asks Him to leave. 

Peter's response seems odd at first. Everyone wants to get closer to Jesus. The crowds had been pressing in on Him. But here is Peter, enjoying next level intimacy with Jesus and wanting to get away. He's sharing a small boat with Jesus receiving personal miracles, and yet he's telling Jesus to get away from him.

But Peter's response isn't all that odd or unique really. Consider Isaiah's response when he entered God's presence in a vision. "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips..." (Isaiah 6:5). When God first spoke to Moses at the burning bush Moses hid his face in fear (Exodus 3:6). When the people of Israel heard God speak at Mt. Sinai from the midst of the cloud and the fire, they were so afraid that they told Moses not to let God speak to them anymore (Exodus 20:18-21).

The key to understanding Peter's response is in the second half of verse eight. Peter asks Jesus to leave him because he is a sinner. When Peter got a glimpse of who Jesus really was it made him more acutely aware of his own sinfulness. Far from a rejection of Jesus, Peter's statement is a form of worship. It's like he was saying, "I am unworthy to be in Your presence." 

When was the last time you felt unworthy of God? How long has it been since you were so moved by a passage of Scripture or so overwhelmed by the power of His presence in some place that you said to God "I am unworthy of You. I don't deserve You." This is the appropriate human response to entering God's presence. If we don't occasionally respond to God in this way then we have a problem. Either we think too highly of ourselves, we think too little of God, or we simply aren't seeing how good God really is. Take some time today to fall down before the holy God and declare yourself unworthy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Tale of Three Men

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
James 1:19-20

Here is the man who isn't quick to listen. Listening is a waste of time for him because he already knows what you are going to say. He cuts you off mid-sentence with his retort. He efficiently uses the time you are speaking not to gain perspective but to catch his breath and plot his next argument. He is wise in his own eyes, but not in God's eyes.

Here is the man who speaks too quickly. He has no filter. Whatever enters into his mind comes out of his mouth straight away. He takes no time to consider if it should be spoken, if it is helpful or if it is even true. He simply says what he thinks. In fact, he takes pride in doing so. "I'm a straight shooter. I say what is on my mind," he says. But this is not the mark of honesty, nor is it a trait to be aspired to. No, a Christian ought to be thoughtful in his words. He ought to always remember what damage the tongue can do and seek to harness it (James 3:3-12). Otherwise his religion is worthless (James 1:26). 

Lastly, here is the man who is quickly angered. He goes from happiness to all out rage in 60 seconds or less. His anger moves too quickly for him to determine if it's directed at the right person or even if it's an appropriate response at all. Thus, he often yells at people only to regret it later. It doesn't take much to set him off. He gives no one the benefit of the doubt or the best reading of the details. He quickly believes any gossip he hears and receives any perceived slight in the worst possible light. He never pauses to ask himself questions before his anger runs ahead. He doesn't ask, "Does this person want to hurt me? Do they even realize they are hurting me?" No, this man has incredible insight into the souls of all people. With very few details at all, he can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that his friend attacked him intentionally with the worst possible motives. 

When we look on these three men as a character sketch, it is easy to see that we do not want to be like them. Yet many of us resemble at least one of the three. It would be impossible to calculate how many conflicts in the church would be avoided if we would only follow the advice in these verses. Let's be known for how well we listen. Let's speak less and have fewer regrets. And let's switch our anger from microwave mode to crock pot mode. Refuse to be angry at anyone until you are sure it is the right response. Give them the benefit of the doubt until all the facts are in. Then we will be more like God and our growth in righteousness will not be stunted.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Weep with the Weeping

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.
John 11:33-35

We see Jesus' amazing empathy in action right before he raises Lazarus from the dead. John's gospel account makes it clear that Jesus is fully aware that within moments the weeping of those around Him will turn to joy. He knows He is going to raise Lazarus. Yet, Jesus still weeps. This is surprising, and important. 

Why does He weep? I think Jesus must have been weeping out of empathy for the pain and sorrow of those around Him. But notice that Jesus not only felt the pain, He entered into it. Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). He knows what it is to suffer. But instead of being hardened by His experiences, He learned how to relate to us more fully from it. Jesus understands the difficulty of daily life and empathizes with your pain. 

This tells us two things:
  1. Your pain matters to God. He weeps when you weep.
  2. It’s okay to mourn the death of our loved ones. Scripture says that believers should not mourn as those who have no hope, but it does not say that we shouldn't mourn. Jesus wept even when He knew resurrection was just around the bend. So it must be okay for us to weep when we lose a loved one, as long as we do not mourn as though there were no resurrection coming at all.

Do you weep with those around you? Do you feel their pain? 

Any of us who hope to follow the example of Jesus must learn show empathy like He did. Look for opportunities to take up the burdens of those around you, to comfort them or to simply join them in their pain. As you do, you will become more like the Savior.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:16

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

You thought God had big things in store for your life, but here you are run aground on the rocks of discouragement and despair. You have a long list of reasons to feel like a failure as a believer. Your friends still aren’t believers. Your ministry is floundering. Despite your best efforts your kids more closely resemble Fred and George Weasley (of Harry Potter fame) than John and Charles Wesley. Sometimes you feel like you aren’t making any impact on the kingdom of God at all. What do you do with your disappointment? Is it your fault? Is it God’s?

Remember this: Many of the Bible’s greatest heroes went through long periods of time used to prepare them before their lives bore exceptional fruit for the kingdom. 

Moses was 80 years old (Exodus 7:7) before he uttered the famous words, “Let my people go.” Even as a young man he must have felt a touch of destiny on his life. He alone amongst all the Hebrew boys was saved from Pharaoh's hand, and he alone was adopted by Pharaoh's daughter. The same Pharaoh that expended resources in an effort kill all the Hebrew boys, by God’s providence, ended up using the same resources to raise and nurture the one boy who would deliver God's people. Who but God could do this? Yes, I believe Moses must have felt that God had a grand purpose for his life, but where do we find him after his first failed attempt to rescue his people? In the desert, tending sheep. The man who would one day lead millions of slaves out of Egypt across the Red Sea and through the desert, first spent 40 years (Exodus 7:7 & Acts 7:23) leading sheep to pasture and water. God made Moses wait while he prepared him for his destiny.

Consider King David. Where do we find him when the prophet Samuel is sent to Bethlehem to anoint the next king of Israel? Even among his own brothers, he isn’t considered the greatest. He is left out in the field like Moses tending sheep. He was just a young man then, likely somewhere between the ages of 10 and 20, when Samuel first anointed him. David was 30 years old when he finally became king (2 Samuel 5:4). That means David waited at least ten years to receive his kingdom. For ten years he served Saul, ministered to Saul, fought for Saul, and ran from Saul as the evil king tried to kill him. All the while, David waited for God's timing, which is exactly what King Saul had failed to do (I Samuel 13:8-10).

We find this same element of waiting in the lives of many Bible characters. Abraham waited twenty-four years for God to make good on His promise before Isaac was born. Jacob served in Laban's shadow for twenty years before he struck out on his own (Genesis 31:38). Joseph slaved for Potiphar and the prison keeper before he came to Pharaoh's attention and was made second in command. After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension the apostles were instructed to wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit empowered them for ministry from on high. They waited ten days before Pentecost changed them and the world forever. The apostle Paul spent three years in Arabia (Galatians 1:17-18) before his great ministry got under way.

You are no different. Be patient. Wait. Trust God's plan for your life. Seek to be faithful to Him above all else and you will see how He will use you for His glory.