Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

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)

One of the cool things about getting older (notice I said older) is that you’ve been around long enough to see some things come and go like hairstyles, fashion, TV shows, music, and technology. One of the things my older friends enjoy doing is playing a game I like to call Remember When?. That’s when we sit around and go, “Hey, remember when…?” It always brings a few laughs and sometimes some old pictures even get broken out. Then it’s not always funny anymore.

searchingAnyway, I was reminded of a song the othr day that I haven’t heard in years. It’s a song called Sweet Dreams by a band called The Eurythmics. Remember them? It’s kind of a catchy tune but I have to confess that the lyrics never made much sense to me. There is one line that stands out though and it was this line that came to mind. It goes like this “I’ve traveled the world and the seven seas, and everybody’s looking for something.” I do believe that the writer stumbled on to something there. Everybody is looking for something. People are looking for things like happiness, love, peace, and satisfaction. I think that everything we do is ultimately a result of longing for these things in our lives. We get married, have kids, go to school, pursue a career, buy things, get involved in activities, clubs, church… you name it, all to hopefully find these things. Unfortunately none of these things ever do bring us the ultimate satisfaction that we’re looking for. Oh these things can bring us happiness and love and peace, at least in a sense and for a while, but none of them, by themselves, ultimately fulfill  us. That’s because we were made for something more.

In Matthew 1:1-17 we run across one of those “begat” passages that are boring to read and frankly don’t seem to offer much in the way of answers, at least at first glance. However, as is often the case when it comes to God’s word, there is more than meets the eye. What I see in tis passage is the answer to what everybody is ultimately looking for. That answer is not found in a thing but in a person. Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior.

imagesIn these opening verses we read about the ancestry and geneology of Jesus, which is broken down into three segments of Jewish history. What Matthew is trying to show is that the promised Savior that God’s people have long been waiting for and looking for has arrived. Jesus is the one that we were all made for and it’s in Him that we will find our ultimate fulfillment. It’s in Him that we find true happiness, love, and peace. When we find our fulfillment in Him, then we can find it in those other things like marriage, family, and careers. Knowing Jesus is the key.

Do you know Him or are you spinning your wheels looking everywhere else and still coming up empty? If you find that you’re still looking for something then I encourage you to read through at least one of the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, and meet the One you are looking for.

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.