Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

Ith grew up in East Texas. It’s not like other parts of Texas, more deep south than west I guess. Instead of flat plains, tumbleweeds, deep canyons, and big skies there are rolling hills and tall pines. I now live in the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas where we have four seasons; in Texas there seem to be just two, hot and not as hot. I remember summers when you didn’t want to leave the air conditioning for anything, where just getting out of your car to walk across the parking would require a water jug. I mean, it was hot. My uncle told me how he once picked up a hitchhiker in the middle of that kind of heat and when the young man got in the truck my uncle said, “It’s too hot to be walking.” To which the young man replied, “Oh sir, it ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”

I’ll let that sink in for a minute…

While he certainly meant “humidity” instead of “humility” his statement has not only caused me to laugh a little, it’s also given me something to think about. There are situations that we all face in life that will cause us to be humble, whether we want to be or not. There are always those circumstance that remind us that we’re not “all that” after all. We’re just people, trying to make our way through this life. We all have our ups and downs, our victories and defeats, our successes and failures. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we goof up. We all experience humility at times. It’s part of life, and while it may not be enjoyable, it’s not a bad thing either. Humility, being humble, is a good character trait to have, it’s a godly character trait that’s born out of humbling experiences. I recently had the opportunity to think about this trait as I have been preaching through the Gospel of Matthew with my congregation.

We are now in Matthew 5 and are spending some time in what’s called “The Beatitudes” which refer to the first 12 verses, the opening statement of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount”. These verses contain nine statements that begin with “Blessed are…” The word “blessed” actually means “happy”. Jesus is teaching those who would be His followers how to be happy. What we are learning is that true happiness comes from knowing God through faith in Christ and experiencing His presence and work in our lives. Part of that experience is learning humility. In verse 5 Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

humilityThe meek are those who have learned to be humble. He is in essence saying, “Happy are the humble.” To be humble is to have a right attitude about who you are in relation to God and to other people. The humble person is one who has experienced brokenness over sin and forgiveness in Christ and as a result is able and willing to show that same grace to others. It’s a gentleness of character that should be a trait of all those who call themselves followers of Christ.

I’ll admit, I often fail at this and it bother’s me. Maybe realizing that in and of itself is part of the humbling experience. I certainly hope so. Realizing a failure, being broken over sin certainly isn’t pleasant, but it is a necessary part of the process and with God, the end result is always worth it. Like a wise man once said, “It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”

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If you could choose to be lucky, talented, smart, or wise which one would you choose? There was a time when I would have probably chosen lucky or talented. I mean, if you happen to be lucky things just seem to work out for you and if you happen to be talented enough, some things tend to come easy. Since I’m not really either one of those I thought maybe I could study hard and become really smart. So I did, study hard I mean. I put a lot of effort into trying to learn how to read well, write well, and reason things out. I studied history, science, psychology, philosophy, and theology. I obtained a lot of knowledge but at the end of the day, what good is a head full of knowledge without knowing how to use it? That’s where wisdom comes in. Wisdom is knowing what to do with what you know. If I could choose to be any one of these things, I would choose to be wise.

ThreeWiseMenblueskyandstarsIn Matthew 2:1-12 we have the story of some wise men who came seeking the “King of the Jews”. These were men from afar who had obviously studied Old Testamment prophecy as well as many other things, who had seen a sign, and who had been led by God to find Jesus. These men were wise, they not only had knowledge, but had the sense to act on what they knew, and so they did. As a result they came face to face with God’s Son and when they did, they worshipped Him.

That’s a great story but unfortunately that’s not all of it. You see, there are two other kinds of people mentioned in the same passage. I call them the wicked and the complacent. The first is represented by a man named Herod who happened to be the ruler over the Jews under the authority of the Roman Empire. He was not a very nice person. History reveals that he had many people killed during his reign, including members of his own family. This man sought knowledge from the leading Old Testament scholars of his day concerning prophecies of God’s Messiah but for very different reasons than the wise men. Herod pretended to want to worship Him but really only wanted to destroy Him. Herod actively fought against what God was doing. He was certainly lucky, and maybe even a talented political leader, but he wasn’t very wise.

The third group, the complacent, are perhaps the saddest of all. This group is represented by the same Old Testament scholars that Herod consulted. These were the religious leaders of the day. These were the men who were the smartest when it came to the word of God, and yet they seemed to care very little about it. Oh, they were religious alright, but they were so religious that they completely missed what God was doing. They were happy, and complacent, with their own religion and knowledge. They were smart, but they weren’t very wise.

I saw a bumper sticker once that said “Wise men still seek Him”. Simple, but true. God has sent His Son into the world in order to save us, to actually seek us out. It would be foolish not to act on that knowledge.

wisdom-large-3Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. (Proverbs 4:5-8, ESV)

 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5, ESV)

Who do you admire or look up to and why? This is a question I was asked recently during a Bible study I was going through. It’s a good question and the more I thought about it the more I was surprised by the answer. Let me explain.

My first thoughts were to those over the years who have been my role models in life and ministry; people who have encouraged and invested into me, my family, and my ministry; people who have taught me by both word and example. I am blessed to have several people like that in my life and I certainly admire and look up to them. I am grateful for them. I hope you have people like that in your life as well and that you are trying to be that person for someone else. It’s an intentional process and it’s rewarding on both sides.

imagesI thought about these people in my own life as I wrote their names down and thought of all the ways they have and continue to bless me, but then something else began to happen. This is the surprising part. I began to think of my children, but instead of considering the ways I might (or might not) be a blessing and encouragement to them I thought of the ways they are a blessing and encouragement to me. In that moment I realized that I admire my children and that in many ways I look up to these that have spent their lives looking up at me.

First of all I admire my son Randy, he’s about to be 16 and is the oldest. As I sat there that morning I thought of all the ways I admire him. He’s a good kid with a good head on his shoulders. He doesn’t just think about the moment but the future also. He has goals and plans and he works towards them. Boy, I wish I had had that kind of resolve when I was his age. He stays focused, stays out of trouble, and makes good decisions. He is a fine and responsible young man.

Then there’s Elizabeth who is about to be 14 (where does the time go?). She’s my oldest daughter and my middle child. I’m a middle child myself so we kind of share something there that no one else in our family really gets. We don’t talk about it much, we just know. I admire Elizabeth because she just may be the kindest person I know. She is always thinking of others and putting them first. She’s quiet, gentle, tender-hearted and never complains about anything.

And last but not least there’s my daughter Carly who is 8. She is still young and sees the world through the eyes of a child. The thing about Carly is that she loves life and lives it to the fullest. She is always full of joy, is very outgoing and knows how to get the most out of every minute of every day. She loves to be outside and sees the awe, the wonder, and the majestic in everything. She also keeps us laughing all the time, “never a dull moment” as they say.

The greatest thing about each of them, however, is their love for Jesus. I can walk into their rooms and see their Bible’s and devotion guide’s out and I know they’ve been reading them. I see it in the way they treat others and the ministries they’re involved in, and I hear it in their conversations and their questions. I am proud of and grateful for each of my kids.

I admire my children for who they are, each unique in their own way and each one reminds me of the kind of person I want to be.

And when Esau lifted up his eyes and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” Genesis 33:5 (ESV)

From the great poetic duo of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards:

“You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need”

Time Collection of Alarm ClockThese words rang true in my heart as the alarm went off at 4:00AM this morning. What I wanted was to sleep in, it is Saturday after all. Not only that, but it’s been a very tiring week. It’s been a good week spent at one of my favorite places in the whole world, Camp Siloam in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. I was there with 53 other leaders, children, and teenagers from my church. Kids got saved, a few surrendered their lives to ministry, and we all drew closer to Christ and each other. It was a good week, but a tiring one all the same. So yeah, I wanted to sleep in. The thing is, Sunday rolls around every week without fail. Regardless of what happened the week before, you can be sure Sunday’s coming and when you pastor a church, that’s kind of a big deal.

You see, people will show up to churches all across the land on Sunday morning expecting to hear a word from God. And they sholud get it. After all, they’ve had a busy week too. They may or may not have spent that week trying to keep up with kids while the July heat saps all of their strength and will from them, but they have worked hard. They got up early each day and went to their jobs. They may have faced trials and disappointments and have certainly struggled with decisions and responsibility. That’s all part of life. On Sunday they come to church looking for hope from God. They want reassurance that God is there, that He cares, that there’s more than the daily struggle.

That’s why I got out of bed at 4:00AM this morning even though I wanted to sleep in. God has called me to be a pastor. What I wanted and what I needed most were two different things, and I got what I needed. I needed some time alone with God. I needed to know that there is hope, that God is there and that He cares, and that there is more than the craziness of the daily struggle of life. I found time to study and prepare this week while I was at camp but I needed more. What I needed most was to simply get alone with God and His Word, with no distractions, and let Him speak. After all, apart from God I don’t have anything to say to my congregation on Sunday that’s worth hearing. I can’t have a word for them from God unless I first have a word from God myself. So I got up early, even though my body didn’t want to, and as always God delivered. He’s good like that, always giving us what we need, despite what we sometimes want. I don’t think that’s quite what the Rolling Stones had in my mind, but I have found it to be true.

Thank you, God, for giving me what I need.

“Every word of God proves true;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”
(Proverbs 30:5, ESV)

american-flagWhat do you love most about America? We have so much it’s difficult for me to pinpoint the one thing that I love most about my country. We also have much that we take for granted. If you’ve ever traveled outside of the US (and I don’t mean vacation spots geared towards rich Americans but the places where the people live) then you know what I mean. We have had so much for so long that we think we’re entitled to it and that it will always be there. We’ve had so much for so long that we don’t often take the time to thing about what we have or to be thankful for it. So, what do you love most about America? I think what I love most is the determination of the people.

As I think about our history over the last 237 years I think of the determination of a people to be free and to fight for freedom, not just ours but for other nations as well. As I think about more recent events like terrorist attacks, natural disasters, or a failing economy I see the same determination. Whatever may happen, whatever our differences may be, we always seem pull together. If we are anything, we are determined.

I hope that determination will continue. In my opinion there is much to be concerned about, as much within as without our borders. I don’t have the time or space here to address all of the things that concern me about the current condition of this great country. I don’t pretend to have all the answers either but as an American, a Christian, and a pastor I would like to encourage other followers of Christ to continue to pray and to pursue one thing above all others. Holiness.

The forefathers of our country wrote in The Declaration of Independence that all men have been endowed by their Creator with certain rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Amen, these are ours from God and I’m thankful for a country that recognizes that. I think those of us who are Christians should also understand that this right of ours to pursue happiness includes an obligation to pursue holiness first. 1Peter 1:16 says, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (ESV) Christians should understand that true happiness only comes from knowing God through Jesus Christ and making Him known.

holinessThe best thing we can do for our country is to pursue holiness first. I don’t mean pointing a self-righteous finger at everyone who believes differently or disagrees with us. I mean pursuing holiness in our own character and letting the light of Christ shine in and through us for those around us to see. In our pursuit of holiness we’ll find happiness and in that pursuit God will use us to draw others to Himself. Jesus says in John 12:32, “And I, if I be lifted up from earth, will draw all men unto me.” (ESV)

What I’m trying to say is this: If Christians in America will be determined to pursue holiness above all else then we will see God’s hand at work in and through our great nation.