Tuesday, September 6, 2016

It's An Abomination

It's an abomination!  There's no way around it.  Scripture is absolutely clear on this. Regardless of what you think or believe, the truth is the truth.  I'm not exactly sure just how bad an "abomination" is, but from what I read in Scripture it is a serious offense.  So, I think we have to talk about it.  We can't simply ignore it and expect it to go away.  I just read this verse in the Bible a few days ago and I've been thinking about it ever since.

"Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; Though they join forces, none will go unpunished" (Proverbs 16:5 - NKJV).  There it is, I said it.  I'm glad I got that off my chest.  I know, I know, we don't go around quoting this one do we? But there it is in black and white.  Those who have pride in their heart are an abomination. I know, it's a tough pill to swallow but we sure don't have trouble force feeding this same pill to certain others who commit other "abominations." 

Pride is a tough one.  It often lies deep in our hearts unnoticed by those who carry it. Oh, but it is so blatantly obvious to all those around us.  It's like a tattoo painted on our forehead unseen by us but easily seen by everyone around us.  It's hard to address because a prideful person is rarely a teachable person.  They are convinced they've got it all together when in reality they are moments from it all falling apart.  Show me a prideful person who refuses counsel and I'll show you a person who is destined for destruction.  Afterall, God, the Creator of the Universe, Himself opposes them.  Now, I don't particularly like it when anyone opposes me, but I'm thinking if God opposes me that would be the worse case scenario ever!!!  That would be like rowing a boat upstream without a paddle, with a gaping hole in the bottom, in the middle of a hurricane, in water infested with crocodiles, snakes, piranhas, and a flesh eating virus. Oh, did I mention the 150 foot waterfall with jagged rocks and hungry bears waiting at the bottom?  

It is true that God loves us, but it is equally true that He opposes the proud.  "...“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (I Peter 5:5).  Pride has no place in the heart of a follower of Jesus.  No, I didn't say we would never have issues with it, but we should never allow it to take root in our hearts.  I am personally on the lookout for this sneaky, slimy, enemy constantly.  I don't ever want it to take up residence in my heart.  There was a time in my life when I was extremely prideful and arrogant.  To be honest when I look back at that person I once was, I can catch a glimpse of just what an "abomination" is.  If I was to encounter that guy today, I couldn't stand him. I would be completely repelled by him.  Thanks to the grace and mercy of God that guy is no longer around today.  

Still, there are moments when I struggle with this thing called pride because it is always standing at the door looking for a place to get its foot in.  Here's the key, I've learned to allow the Holy Spirit access to the corridors of my heart.  I'll ask Him questions like, "Do I have pride in that area?"  Was my motive in that matter a prideful one?  Do I have pride in my heart?  Trust me, He answers clearly!  He hates pride.  It's an abomination to Him.  If His child wants to get rid of that spiritual cancer, He is there to help eradicate it.  
One last thought...I have enough to worry about trying to keep from committing an abomination by getting into pride to concern myself with others who struggle with other abominations.  So, until I can get this 2x4 out of my eye, I'll leave others to deal with the speck in their eyes.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

God Rested and Was Refreshed

God rested and was refreshed? I read this the other day in Exodus 31 as it described how God created the world in 6 days and then on the 7th day rested and was refreshed.  I was taken back by the idea that God was refreshed.  This God that does not grow weary rested and was refreshed.  My first thought was doesn't the idea of being refreshed indicate one has become tired?  I mean, I can't begin to imagine how exhausting it would be to create the entire universe.  I get exhausted just trying to manage my little world.  God's never ending galactic frontier is anything but little and I cannot fathom the energy it took to bring it all into existence.  I know, He's God and there wasn't a need for the latest sports drink to replenish all the electrolytes He lost over the course of those 6 days, but hey this was still a huge undertaking.  "...for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed” (Exodus 31:17).

I know I'm going to date myself here, but when I think of the concept of being refreshed, images of the old Nestea commercials with the people doing the Nestea plunge race through my head. For those who have no clue what I'm talking about, those commercials showed people sweating from a hard days work drinking a glass of iced Nestea plunging backward into a swimming pool.  The idea was this glass of ice tea was a great refreshing break from hard work.  I love southern sweet iced tea as much as anybody, but somehow this idea of God being refreshed has got to be a bit more than taking a sip of instant ice tea.

At least that's what I thought.  But the word refreshed here means to breath.  To sit down, take a break, and just breath.  It paints a picture of one ceasing from work and taking a break so that they can be breathed on or into.  This reminds me of how God breathed into Adam the breath of life and He came alive.  Also, when Jesus breathed on the disciples giving them "new life."  In His resting on the 7th day, God shows us a key to living in which we circumvent exhaustion, burnout, and weariness. He shows us that the breath of life or refreshing comes from a place of rest.

God rested and the world He had created didn't come crashing to the ground.  Jupiter did not bump into Mars and this planet in which we live did not quit spinning.  The world managed to make it through His day of rest.  If you're like me, you struggle to take time to just rest.  Truly rest.  Sure, you may get a day off of work, but then there's all the work to do around the house.  Our to-do lists are way too long and they never get done.  There are tons of voices screaming for our attention and too often the urgent takes priority over the important and necessary.  In the middle of all those voices is one distinct voice and its pleading for us to sit down and breath.  To take a break from the madness and refresh.  This voice comes with a promise to bless both our rest and our work.  Yet, too often we neglect that voice and plow through until we are long past the point of needing to just be refreshed. I'm wondering how prideful and arrogant it is of us to see God's design for how to do life and refuse to do life that way?  It's as if we are saying to Him, "I know a better way."

God rested and was refreshed.  His refreshing comes no other way.  We have to simply come to the place where we trust that if we take our hands off of our world for a day, all will be ok.  It's learning to trust that God's got this and that His ways work better than our ways. Weariness comes from our refusal to submit to His way of doing life.  He's waiting for each of us to simply sit down at His feet so that He can breath life into us.  Want to be refreshed?  Trust me, Nestea is not the answer.  Not only does it not come with a swimming pool, take it from me a southern sweet tea connoisseur, instant tea tastes horrible.  But come taste and see that the Lord is good!!!       

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Good Friday???

In a few weeks we'll celebrate Good Friday.  I know it seems a bit strange to label the day Jesus was brutally beaten and killed as "good." After all, it was a moment that Jesus asked the Father to spare Him from if it was at all possible. Of course, it was the only way to redeem lost man, so Jesus followed through with the plan. A plan that would require an innocent man to be arrested, mocked, ridiculed, beaten, abused, whipped, nailed to a cross, and ultimately killed. And we call that "good."

Good, because we know what it all meant. At least what it all meant for us. The "good" was what it meant for us. Redemption, restoration, salvation, and much more. It was a moment in time where the mercy, grace, and love of God met at the same point with the justice, and judgment of God. We being the recipients of His mercy, grace, and love and Jesus being the recipient of His justice, judgment, and wrath. Its the point where God poured out the punishment for sin and Jesus agreed to take that punishment for us.

Scripture tells us that He became our sin. Is it any wonder, God had to turn His back on Him? Jesus became the very thing God hated. Think about that for a minute. Jesus, who is God, became the very thing God hates. God, Himself, became something He hates in order to rescue what He loves. We've all seen Hollywood try to illustrate what happened that day, and I believe none of their attempts come close. Sure, Mel Gibson's, "Passion of the Christ," probably is the closest, but even with all its detail of the crucifixion, it still falls short. There is so much going on at this point in time besides a crucifixion. Our sin, all of it, was carried to that cross that day. From Hitler's inhumanity, to our little white lies. Every murderer, adulterer, pedophile, liar, thief, gossip, or drunk. Every abusive parent, rebellious child, or uncompassionate, unloving, selfish person. Jesus became that sin! Ponder that for a moment. Jesus became all of that sin. It brings a great deal more understanding as to why God the Father, couldn't stand to look at Him.

The wages of sin is death. The payment, punishment, and judgement of sin is death. All of us have sinned. Every single one of us fit into that category of deserving death. But God stepped in with His grace, mercy, and love. He came in the flesh and became sin so that He himself could take on our punishment of death. Isaiah tells us that, it pleased the Father to bruise Him. It pleased God for Jesus to be crucified. That's sounds a bit odd, without knowing the whole story, but when you know what all was going on that day, you understand very well why it pleased the Father. Redemption, restoration, and salvation was made available to us all that day, because of what Jesus did. Because, Jesus, who is God, submitted his eternal, immortal self to death as a man, mankind could once again have the eternal life he was designed to have.

I'm sure the disciples thought that crucifixion day was anything but "good." But on that resurrection day can you imagine what type of emotions stirred in them all? Every doubt, every question, every tear was gone in an instant as they realized it was all true. Everything He said he was and everything He said he would do, had to have come racing back to them as they stood at the door of that empty tomb. That sin he took on Himself, He shed, having never sinned himself, and in an instant God raised Him from the dead. For the disciples, all the pieces of the puzzle came together that day, as they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the man they had dropped everything to follow, had dropped everything to save each one of them. He was indeed the Messiah the world had long awaited for and His salvation was available to all.

It was at that very moment, I think they all realized how "good" that crucifixion day really was. We have grown up celebrating this day as "Good Friday!" Many workers just see it as another day off, while many retailers see it as another day to make some money. For the believer though, who understands what happened on that day some 2000 years ago, he/she sees it for what it really is...."Good Friday!"

Friday, January 29, 2016

Father, Make Us One

As I read through the book of Acts, unity seems to be a theme throughout the entirety of this written account of the early church.  They were in "one mind and one accord", "continued in one accord", "together in one accord," are phrases used to describe this group of early believers.  Then, we see supernatural works occurring among them on a regular basis.  I can't help but draw a connection between the two.  It appears certain to me that unity was a catalyst to an empowered church.
The church is a global entity today.  I'm wondering what possibilities there are should this global body of believers truly learn how to walk in unity?  What kind of force could we be in the earth today?  Of course, the first step would be to get the local body of believers to learn how to do this.  Let's face it, community is hard.  Afterall, in any gathering of people there are those that we find easy to get along with and others we would rather just smile and wave to from across the room.  Some you might enjoy going on vacation with and others you need to go on vacation to get away from.  And dare I say it, there are those individuals who you will cry at their funerals and those you will struggle to find something good to say when they die.  So, how in the world do you manage to be in unity when this is the case?  Perhaps one approach would be to just kick those out of the community we don't get along with.  Or, you could just go start a new community of people who you can get along with.  Now, surrounded with only people you find it easy to like you can finally be at peace and arrive at this goal of unity.  Somehow I'm thinking that's not God's idea of how we are to accomplish this unity thing.

Have you ever been double minded?  Have you ever wanted one thing one day and something different the next day?  Have you ever been conflicted when it comes to what you want?  The truth is we all encounter these moments in life.  Times when we are less than decisive.  And then when we make a decision we waver between whether or not we made the right decision. Let's face it, we struggle to be at one with ourselves, no wonder we struggle when we add more people to the mix.  Yet, the early church figured out how to do this.  They figured out how to walk in unity with one another and God blessed them and He moved mightily among them.     

Jesus, just prior to His arrest and crucifixion, prayed for His followers.  He prayed that they would be one. He also prayed for us:

20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. - (John 17:20-23)

Notice that the world's ability to recognize that Jesus was sent by God hinges on the church's determination to walk in unity. "That the world may believe that You sent Me."  Hmm....I'm wondering if the enemy understands this?  It would definitely seem so as he is so great at stirring up stuff in the church in order to keep us from walking in unity.  

God puts us in community with one another with the intent on teaching us to unconditionally love one another.  In that community, He places people of all sorts, from different backgrounds, with different personalities.  He puts intellectuals next to simple thinkers.  He puts those who have and those who need together.  He puts sports fanatics with those who hate sports.  He puts artistic types with those who don't get artistic types at all.  He puts those who have a family full of children in community with those who don't want any children.  He puts old, young, and middle aged people together who have little in common with one another.  He places those who have been set free with those who need freedom, those who are hurting with those who have been healed, and those who are new at this Christian journey with those who have been in it for 50 years.  He places those who are struggling with depression with those full of joy.  He puts those who are stoic with those who are animated.  He places those who are shy next to those who are outgoing.  He places the white collar worker with the blue collar worker. He puts stay-at-home moms with career women.  He puts liberal voters in the same community as conservative voters. He puts the bold and confident in community with the insecure.  

As I think about this, I can't help but think how in the natural this seems like a design destined for complete and utter failure. If anyone was looking to create a community that walked in unity this would not be the model.  Certainly God can see this will never result in a group of people walking in unity, right? On the surface this seems like a stage set for offense, division, and destruction.  But isn't that the whole point?  I mean, if this group can walk in unity, doesn't God have to be at work among them?  You and I both know that there is no way in the natural any group of people made up  with this kind of diversity could ever find a way to discover how to walk in unity.  It would take an act of God.  And that's exactly what Jesus was asking for when He prayed that God would make us one!  He was asking for an act of God.  The kind of miracle that would have those on the outside scratching their head. The unity that God longs for us to walk in is a unity made possible only by Him. 

Do you struggle to love someone that is difficult to love? Then you are in a prime position for God to move in your life.  Do you struggle to get along with that person across the room?  Then you are in the right place for an act of God. God can help you walk in unity.  With man, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.  You can walk in unity with those you cannot stand, but you will never do it on your own. Jesus understood that the key to walking in unity was prayer.  It is no different for you and I. To walk in unity with one another, we must petition God to help us. The choice to walk in unity begins when we humble ourselves and ask God for help.  Too often times we would rather just dismiss those we struggle with as idiots, unlovable, or messengers from satan sent to torment us.  So we run off looking for another community because certainly there is one with people I can stand to be around.  All the while God is longing for us to grow in our ability to have authentic relationships with people who just might drive us up the wall.  

The early church was as diverse as we are today.  I'm sure there were some hiccups when Matthew the tax collector joined Christ's circle of 12.  Paul was an educated man, while Peter, Andrew, James and John were simple fishermen. Stephen spoke with boldness like a prophet, Thomas struggled to believe, Lydia was a Greek who sold purple cloth, Timothy was young, Onesimus was a slave, Cornelius was a Gentile, Aquila and Priscilla were tentmakers, Philip was an evangelist, Rhoda was a young girl, and Mary was an older woman.  In that early church were former Pharisees, a former sorcerer, a former harlot, a jailer, a eunuch, a judge, soldiers, widows, etc. Yet, with all their diversity, it is said of these early believers that they were in one accord.  Oh, that it would be said of the church today that we are of one mind and one accord.  Perhaps when that happens, we'll see the kind of results the early church experienced.  I for one will be joining with the prayer of Jesus. Father, make us one!!!