Monday, April 27, 2009

Humble Yourself

The Danger In Success

Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, "Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son's son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian." But Gideon said to them, "I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you." Judges 8:22-23

And his (Gideon’s) concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he named him Abimelech. (Name means, “My father is king”). Judges 8:31

I love stories that end well. I know that is a bit Pollyannaish, but that’s me, a real fan of happy endings. Gideon’s story begins in Judges 6 and it is the classic underdog story. God comes to a nobody, reveals himself in a wonderful way, issues an invitation that centers on a task of deliverance, assures Gideon of His presence and power to accomplish the task. He shows his patience and understanding of Gideon’s human frailty with many assurances. Then God delivers Israel through a yielded piece of clay in a most marvelous way.

Oh, that the story ended with a happily ever after right there, but the Bible tells the unflinching truth of fallen humanity. In 1 Timothy 3:6 there is a strong warning not to put a new convert into a leadership position less they become prideful and fall. That appears to be what happened to Gideon. When he had such great success, others asked him to rule over them. He said the right things, and reminded them that God was to rule over them, but his ensuing actions show that the thought of being king had been successfully planted in his heart and mind. He did many of the things that kings in those days would do. He asked for tribute, overstepped his spiritual authority, and had many wives who gave him seventy sons. He also had a son by a concubine and gave him a name that meant my father is king. When Gideon died that son rose up and killed all but one of his half brothers to secure his own future as king. What a sad end to such a promising man and his family.

Many times, as a young Christian, I remember people warning me that often on the heels of great victory in our lives the enemy would counter with a plan to bring us defeat. It isn’t always caused by pride, but it sure could be. Satan knows that God himself resists the proud so he loves to manipulate humanity’s Achilles heel. Prideful thoughts should be captured, repented of and taken to His throne of grace as rapidly as possible. Especially when God has used us in some way and we are basking in the thrill of it we can be very vulnerable to the praise that follows. Corrie ten Boom made a wise remark when someone asked her how she handled all the praise and attention she was getting. She said she tried to be gracious to people and gathered their remarks like a bouquet of flowers. At night before she got in bed she would get down on her knees and lay that bouquet where it belonged… at Jesus’ feet. That was her way of humbling herself under God’s mighty hand. (1 Peter 5:6)

The enemy wants God to resist us so he pounds us with prideful thoughts. Our society runs on pride. We have to be alert and choose to actively pursue Peter’s plea that “We all clothe ourselves in humility towards one another.” Pride is not just about how we handle accomplishments. It’s also about how we treat others. How do we react to the wear and tear of living with other imperfect people? Are we easily offended? Are we slow to apologize? Are we slow to forgive and do we hang on to offenses? Pride manifests itself in many ways, but God has given us the Spirit of his Son. Let’s ask Him to shine his light on our pride and show us the beauty of true humility.

MY PRAYER: Lord, your humility as you walked the dusty roads of earth left us an example. You have also given us your Spirit. Help us to humble ourselves under your mighty and wonderful hand so that you may display yourself through us. Bring forth the fruit of your Spirit in us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Monday, April 20, 2009

"God With Us" by Mercy Me

How to Make Spiritual Progress by A.W. Tozer

I found this article by A.W. Tozer online. God used this man early on in my Christian life through his excellent books The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy. He was a deep theological thinker who had no formal seminary training. It is said that his writings and his sermons flowed out of his prayer life.
In this article he urges us on not to be complacent and that is a theme that God has been reinforcing in heart. Read it prayerfully and let the full import of what he is saying sink in. He was a man full of grace. As his biographer stated, "He had the ability to make his listeners face themselves in the light of what God was saying to them."
MY PRAYER: Lord, give us ears to hear and hearts to obey what your Spirit is saying to our hearts, In the Name above all names, amen.
How to Make Spiritual Progress
THE COMPLACENCY of CHRISTIANS is the scandal of Christianity.
Time is short, and eternity is long. The end of all things is at hand. Man has proved himself morally unfit to manage the world in which he has been placed by the kindness of the Almighty. He has jockeyed himself to the edge of the crater and cannot go back, and in terrible fear he is holding his breath against the awful moment when he will be plunged into the inferno.

In the meantime, a company of people exist on the earth who claim to have the answer to all life's major questions. They claim to have found the way back to God, release from their sins, life everlasting and a sure guarantee of heaven in the world to come.

These are the Christians. They declare that Jesus Christ is very God of very God, made flesh to dwell among us. They insist that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. They testify that He is to them Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification and Redemption, and they steadfastly assert that He will be to them the Resurrection and the Life for eternity to come.

These Christians know, and when pressed will admit, that their finite hearts have explored but a pitifully small part of the infinite riches that are theirs in Christ Jesus. They read the lives of the great saints whose fervent desire after God carried them far up the mountain toward spiritual perfection; and for a brief moment they may yearn to be like these fiery souls whose light and fragrance still linger in the world where they once lived and labored. But the longing soon passes. The world is too much with them and the claims of their earthly lives are too insistent; so they settle back to live their ordinary lives, and accept the customary as normal. After a while they manage to achieve some kind of inner content and that is the last we hear of them.

This contentment with inadequate and imperfect progress in the life of holiness is, I repeat, a scandal in the Church of the Firstborn. The whole weight of Scripture is against such a thing. The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to arouse the complacent. "Let us go on" is the word of the Spirit. The Apostle Paul embodies this in his noble testimony as found in his Philippian epistle: "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ . . . that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection . . . but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

If we accept this as the sincere expression of a normal Christian I do not see how we can justify our own indifference toward spiritual things. But should someone feel a desire to make definite progress in the life of Christ, what can he do to get on with it? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Strive to get beyond mere pensive longing. Set your face like a flint and begin to put your life in order. Every man is as holy as he really wants to be. But the want must be all-compelling.
Tie up the loose ends of your life. Begin to tithe; institute family prayer; pay up your debts as far as possible and make some kind of frank arrangement with every creditor you cannot pay immediately; make restitution as far as you can; set aside time to pray and search the Scriptures; surrender wholly to the will of God. You will be surprised and delighted with the results.
2. Put away every un-Christian habit from you. If other Christians practice it without compunction, God may be calling you to come nearer to Him than these other Christians care to come. Remember the words, "Others may, you cannot." Do not condemn or criticize, but seek a better way. God will honor you.
3. Get Christ Himself in the focus of your heart and keep Him there continually. Only in Christ will you find complete fulfillment. In Him you may be united to the Godhead in conscious, vital awareness. Remember that all of God is accessible to you through Christ. Cultivate His knowledge above everything else on earth.
4. Throw your heart open to the Holy Spirit and invite Him to fill you. He will do it. Let no one interpret the Scriptures for you in such a way as to rule out the Father's gift of the Spirit. Every man is as full of the Spirit as he wants to be. Make your heart a vacuum and the Spirit will rush in to fill it.
Nowhere in the Scriptures nor in Christian biography was anyone ever filled with the Spirit who did not know that he had been, and nowhere was anyone filled who did not know when. And no one was ever filled gradually.
5. Be hard on yourself and easy on others. Carry your own cross but never lay one on the back of another. Begin to practice the presence of God. Cultivate the fellowship of the Triune God by prayer, humility, obedience and self-abnegation.
Let any Christian do these things and he will make rapid spiritual progress. There is every reason why we should all go forward in our Christian lives and no reason why we should not. Let us go on.

Friday, April 17, 2009

You Deserve The Glory - Acquire The Fire

No More Yawning!

And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. Judges 2:10 NASB

I am currently going through a two year reading plan of the Bible and enjoying the more leisurely pace that allows me to slow down and meditate. I am in the book of Judges and what a book it is. Its revelations about man are disturbing, but what the book reveals about our covenant keeping God is astonishing.

I’m sure you have heard this, but it fits so well, “God doesn’t have grandchildren. He only has sons and daughters.” Every generation must have their own encounter with God and should experience His works on their behalf. Otherwise it is just secondhand information and not firsthand experience. Sometimes I will want to tell my grown children something from the past and they’ll look at me and say, “We’ve heard that a 100 times.” It wasn’t that this generation didn’t know about God or know about his acts; they didn’t know him for themselves. Many have been raised in Christian homes and have a lot of head knowledge, but the heart is not engaged.

I want to quote Gary Inrig in his wonderful commentary on Judges, Hearts of Iron Feet of Clay. “I don’t know why, but a yawn is one of Satan’s most effective weapons, and the thing that really troubles me about second-generation syndrome is the effect it has on new believers. I am convinced that one of the greatest stumbling blocks young Christians must confront is not the opposition of the world, but the apathy of so-called established Christians.” Pg.27 Do I hear an amen or an oh me? I said both. Erich Fromm once said that “Hate is not the opposite of love; apathy is.”

Gary Inrig doesn’t just leave us convicted; he gives three causes for the second generation’s failure.

1. They were satisfied with the status quo.
2. They took God’s blessings for granted and didn’t acknowledge Him.
3. They neglected God’s word.
Of course Inrig elaborates on each point, but I obviously can’t include all his commentary. I do think it would be beneficial to pray through each point and ask God to reveal if any are true of us and for the grace and empowering of His Spirit to rectify it in our lives.

I chose the video very carefully to remind us of just how great He really is so that we won’t be satisfied with the way things are and so that we won’t take Him or His blessings for granted. It is full of examples from His word that dare us to believe Him for great things. No more yawning.

MY PRAYER: Lord, fan any embers of my desire for you that are burning low. I do want a pure and holy passion for you and for your glory and your fame. Lord, I don’t want anyone to yawn when they look at my life. I want them to sit up and take notice that Your presence has made a difference. In the name above all names, amen.

MY CONFESSION: I am a letter of Christ written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3b I will not be apathetic, take you for granted, or neglect your Word.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

There is Power In the Blood ~ Fernando Ortega


Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Deuteronomy 5:15a
And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." Luke 22:19

At least 5 times in the book of Deuteronomy God commands the children of Israel to remember that they were slaves in Egypt. To commemorate that great day they were to celebrate the Passover. They were also to keep the Sabbath, and be kind to those among them who were less fortunate. They were to treat the alien with compassion. God never wanted them to forget how it felt to be in bondage. He didn’t want them to forget that their deliverance came through His mighty hand and outstretched arm. He wanted them to be filled with compassion remembering what it was like to be enslaved and mistreated. He knew there was a danger that as time passed the memory would fade in succeeding generations.

Fast forward into the New Testament and we read about this encounter that Jesus had with the Pharisees, “They answered Him, "We are Abraham's offspring, and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, 'You shall become free'?" John 8:33 NIV What?! Have they forgotten their great deliverance from Egypt? In their religious pride they neglect to reflect that they have been under Persian and Syrian domination and currently the Romans are ruling over them.

Jesus, as the ensuing verses would strongly clarify, was talking about setting them free from slavery to their sin nature. He came not only to free us from sin’s penalty but also its power. Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:34-36

He would deliver them from their bondage in the same way they were delivered from Egypt.

· His mighty arm would be outstretched and nailed to a tree.
· He would deliver them at the same time which was Passover.
· With the same substance though greatly more precious; the blood of the Lamb of God.
And the night, before He accomplished that for us, He asks us to remember Him in the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine. As in the Passover we are to commemorate and remember our mighty deliverance and what it cost.

Never forget, and never take for granted his incredible mercy and deliverance. Remember that you are free. Sin will no longer have dominion over you or me. It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

MY PRAYER: Lord, thank you for delivering me out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of your dear Son. Col.1:13 Help me to remember what it was like to be lost and undone and without you and without hope. Eph. 2:12 Thank you for delivering me with your mighty hand and outstretched arm

MY CONFESSION: Though I was once a slave to sin, I have become obedient from my heart, and having been freed from sin, I am a servant of righteousness. I stand on your word! Romans 6:17-18

Saturday, April 4, 2009

That Kind of Love

I am including both the lyrics and a radio interview where Pierce Pettis, the author and singer performs That Kind of Love. As I listened,I was riveted by the insight and powerfully simple declaration of the love that never fails.
It took me back to a time before I knew Jesus. I was sitting on the floor in our little apartment kitchen talking to my husband. I was trying to get back to some kind of normal after taking a hallucinogenic drug. I remember remarking to him that whoever had composed the Lord's prayer (yes, I was THAT clueless) was a genius because he had hit on the heart of human need. We are all searching for a father's love. I knew that I was searching for a love that kept eluding me. Like so many others I kept looking in all the wrong places and coming up empty. One night not too long after that insight He wrapped his loving arms around me and I experienced That Kind of Love.
The lyrics are so true that it can't be bought and it can't be faked. I do want to be remembered by that kind of love. I am not even close, but my journey isn't over is it?
Hope you are inspired by the lyrics and the unique style of Pierce Pettis. The song ends at the 4:00 minute mark and the interview resumes.
That Kind of Love by Pierce Pettis

Can't be bought or sold or faked

That kind of love

Always gives itself away

That kind of love

Wiser than the wisest sage

Its innocence makes me ashamed

Til I'm not sure I can take

That kind of love

Pride and hatred cannot stand

That kind of love

Greater love hath no man

Than that kind of love

Ir won't be kept unto itself

It spreads its charm, casts its spell

No one's safe this side of hell

From that kind of love

Love rejected and ignored

Held in chains, behind closed doors

Stuff of legend and of songs

Deep down everybody longs (for)

That kind of love . . . oh, that kind of love

Some people never know

That kind of love

Though it only takes a child to show

That kind of love

Widows smile and strong men weep

Little ones play at it's feet

The deaf can hear and blind can see

That kind of love

Love triumphant, love on fire

Love that humbles and inspires

Love that does not hesitate

No conditions, no restraints

That kind of love . . . oh, that kind of love

How could anyone deny

That kind of love

And every heart is measured by

That kind of love

Even stars fall from the sky

Everything will fall in time

Except those things that cannot die

That kind of love

Oh, may you be remembered by

That kind of love Love

WNRN - Pierce Pettis Interview, Part 3