Thursday, May 27, 2010

Four Reasons Why I Believe the Bible

BibleI believe the Bible is the inspired word of God. It is the authority for faith and practice in the Christian life. Now you might say—“Okay Richard, I agree that the Bible has been important to Christians, but why should I believe it is more divinely inspired than any other book?”  Good question!

Here are some reasons I believe the Bible is the very word of God:

  1. The Bible claims to be inspired by God. “All scripture is inspired by God (God breathed)” 2 Timothy 3:16. The men who wrote the Bible “spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:20-21.
  2. The fulfillment of prophecy. The words, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophets . . .” resounds throughout the Gospel accounts.  Hundreds of years before Christ the prophets predicted the manner and place of Jesus’ birth, the content of his ministry, his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.   No amount of mere human insight or perception can explain this—it is explained only by the fact that the Bible is inspired by God.
  3. The Unity of the Bible. “The Bible was written over a period of about 1500 years in places stretching all the way from Babylon to Africa to Rome.  It was recorded by a variety of at least 40 different men—kings, peasants, poets, herdsmen, fishermen, scientists, farmers, priests, prophets, pastors, tentmakers, and governors.” (Hershal Hobbs).

W.A. Criswell said, “Just think of this: There was never any order given to any man to plan the Bible. Little by little, part by part, century after century it came out in disconnected fragments and unrelated portions written by various men without any intention of a concerted arrangement.  The Bible was written in three different languages, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.  In the Bible we find all kinds of poetry, prose, letters, proverbs, parables, allegories and orations.”

What would you expect to find from such a mismatch of people, places and personalities? We would expect to find whole areas of discord and all of it utterly lacking in unity.  Yet we find the exact opposite.  There is the most heavenly and marvelous unity of any book on earth.  Every part of the Bible adds to and supports every other part.  There is an ever-increasing, ever-growing, ever-developing theme in the Bible. It contains one system of doctrine, one system of ethics, one plan of salvation and one rule of faith.

  1. The Message of the Bible. The message of the Bible is like no other book.  You can exhaust the meaning and content of other books, but not the Bible.  It is life changing. It feeds my soul every day. It reveals the creator, sustainer, and redeemer of all. It’s words have literally transformed my life.

What do you believe about the Bible? Why?

To learn more about reading your Bible read Sword Training.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

On the Job Praying

UPS LoadingFor 17 years I worked part-time at UPS in addition to being pastor of a small church in Kansas. I would get up at 3:00am and be to work by 4:00am. The work was physically and mentally challenging. The schedule was tight every morning. Within a span of three and a half to four hours our team had to unload, scan, label, sort, and sequentially load about 40,000 packages. Tempers often flared under exhaustion and the time constraints.

It was not always easy to maintain a joyful spirit and a winsome Christian attitude during those stressful hours. There were days when I blew it.

But there were also days when the Lord shone through me in spite of my failings. Many of those days had this in common: I started them by praying and continued them in praying. Here are some “best practices” for on-the-job praying.

  1. Get up early enough to have a quiet time with God. Read your Bible and spend some time alone with Him in prayer.
  2. Listen to inspirational music or Christian radio on the way to work. It might even help with your attitude toward those other drivers.
  3. Prayer walk your work place. Get to work a little earlier than most, walk by each person’s work space. Pray specifically for that person and the needs you know he or she has. (By the way this might require you to get to know your co-workers.)
  4. Show compassion. Ask God to make you sensitive to others’ needs as you interact with them.
  5. Do a prayer review. At the end of the work day pray over what happened that day. Ask forgiveness for when you blew it. Rejoice in the Lord for when you were faithful.

You might just find that God will make those days at work some of the most productive for the Kingdom of God. Other posts that might help your prayer are:

The Altar, Worship Is Not Just for Sundays, Sword Training

Can you think of other prayer practices for work?

What has worked for you?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

My Garden SpotGardening. I am trying my hand at vegetable gardening this year. Although I grew up on a small farm where we grew vegetables for our family and also sold some, as an adult I have not grown much of anything. The last time I tried to grow a vegetable garden we lived in an old farm house outside of Gardner, Kansas. That was 16 years ago. That garden produced very little results. What the rabbits didn’t eat, the deer took care of. I cried, dreaming of all the veggies I was missing.
Now we live back in Colorado. Although our home here is in a residential subdivision it has a great garden spot on the south side of the house. It’s all fenced in and we now have a dog that should keep most of the critters away from our produce.
So far I have put into the garden a lot of hard work and about $40 worth of seeds and plants. My shovel and I spent several afternoons turning the soil over by hand, digging down about eight inches and breaking up the packed dirt. Then a wonderful member of my church brought his rototiller over and finished the job for me—thank you Dave!
A little over two weeks ago I planted the seeds and set out the tomato and pepper plants. Been watering and checking it daily. A few days ago I began to see signs of life. The corn is coming up along with the lettuce and radishes. Praise the Lord!
Corn Plant Week OneI really am thankful to God for making it grow. I know I can’t make it grow. I can plant seeds, water them and watch—but God makes it grow.
It’s the same way in our walk with Jesus and His work in the church. In the Bible Paul says, “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.  Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.  For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field.” (1 Cor. 3:7-9).
As God’s fellow worker He can use me to plant the seeds of the good news and water that truth with love, but only God can save a soul. Only God can change a life. Only God can grow a church. And when He does, I have another reason to say, “Praise the Lord!”
Stay tuned. Each week I plan to give an update on how the garden is coming along (pictures and all). And maybe we will learn something about following Jesus as well.
How have your gardening experiences been?
How about your gospel sowing?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Persecution: Be Glad!

On April 17, 2010 Hindu extremists attacked a group of Christians at a prayer meeting in Madhya Pradesh, India, causing the death of a 25-year-old man and severely injuring three other believers, according to The Voice of the Martyrs. Hindu radicals disrupted the meeting of more than 400 Christians and began destroying Bibles and other property. They attacked the Christians with sticks and iron rods, accusing them of forcible conversions.
On March 16, 2010 the People’s High Court of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region rejected an appeal from Uyghur house-church leader Alimujiang Yimiti, according to China Aid Association. In September 2007 Chinese government officials closed Alimujiang Yimiti’s business and accused him of using it as a cover up for “preaching Christianity among people of Uyghur ethnicity.” He was later arrested in January 2008. Yimiti is seriously sick in prison and there are concerns he is not receiving adequate medical attention, according to
On April 13, 2010 a pastor and his wife in Boto village, Bauchi state, Nigeria, were abducted and killed by suspected Islamic extremists, according to Compass Direct News. Extremists previously set fire to their church building in January, days after Christians displaced by violence in Plateau state had taken refuge at the church
For almost 2,000 years, enemies of the Gospel have been trying to stop Christ's followers. In Nina Shea's book, In the Lion's Den, she reports that more Christians have been martyred for their faith in this last century alone than in the previous nineteen centuries of church history combined.
One widowed Chinese believer absolutely refused to deny Jesus when she came to pick up her twin sons. The officers threatened her, saying, "If you do not deny Jesus, we will not release your sons."  The widow replied, "Well, I guess you will just have to keep them, because without Jesus, there would be no way for me to take care of them!"  With no avenues left open to them, the officials said, "Take your sons and go!"  ( 11-8-05)
What an attitude that Chinese Christian mother has! What would you call it? Courage? Faith? Patience? Jesus says this about her and others who have an attitude like hers:
(Mat 5:10 NKJV)  “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
This beatitude is a little different from the others. Notice how the beatitudes are structured. There are two groups of four, and each group ends with a reference to righteousness. The first group ends with verse 6: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness." And the second group ends with verse 10: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake."
The three beatitudes that lead to hunger for righteousness are descriptions of a kind of holy emptiness. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn over their needy condition and the meek who hand their cause over to God. It's natural that these three descriptions of emptiness and need should be followed by a description of hunger. If you don't have something you hunger for it. And Jesus promises that we will be filled with righteousness.
Then the next three beatitudes are descriptions not of emptiness but of fullness. Our hunger for righteousness is beginning to be satisfied by an overflowing mercy, a pure heart and a power to make peace. So the righteousness longed for in verse 6 is shows in the form of mercy, purity, and peacemaking.
The result is persecution for this very righteousness. If we live according to the first seven beatitudes, we will automatically experience the eighth. Be the person vv.3-9 speak of and the world will give you the persecution of vv.10-12. Keep these in mind:
  • EXPECT TO BE PERSECUTED. If you are never persecuted you are off the right track. We are persecuted because we will not compromise our faith.
  • REMEMBER, GOD BLESSES THE PERSECUTED. Hang in there. Trust the Lord and rely on His goodness.
  • KNOW THAT THE REWARDS ARE WORTH THE RISK. Jesus says, "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad," and "great is your reward in heaven."
In 2 Timothy 3:12, Paul writes, "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."
What does that say about my life in Christ Jesus?
What is my response to stories of persecution?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Peacemakers - Are You a Child of God?

Peace Dove courtesy of Flickr

A riot raged in the La Mesa Prison in Tijuana, Mexico. Thousands of inmates battled the guards with bottles and rocks, while the guards shot back with machine guns—until a small American woman in her 70s walked into the middle of the war, raised her hands, and signaled for quiet. Remarkably, calm fell on the prison.

That woman was Mary Brenner, who was raised in Beverly Hills. There she lived what she called "a glamorous life," until she found Christ and followed him in a whole new direction.

Now she's known as Sister Antonia. She dresses in a nun's habit and lives in a sparse 10-foot cell inside the Mexican prison. She moved there 25 years ago to live among murderers, thieves, and drug dealers. Sister Antonia has poured out her life for these prisoners, nursing their wounds, getting them eyeglasses and medicine, caring for their families, and washing their bodies for burial.

Loving them doesn't mean she ignores their crimes. In her words, "There isn't anyone who hasn't heard my lecture. They have to accept that they're wrong. They have to see the consequences. They have to feel the agony…but I do love them dearly." She refers to each prisoner as her son.

Although she lives in a prison, the prison does not live inside of her. Her friends and the inmates all describe her incredible energy, joy, and hopefulness. She describes it as simply living out her calling. In an interview she said, "I wouldn't trade this cell for any place in the world." (source: "Antonia's Mission," Readers Digest -June 2004).

What an attitude Sister Antonia has! That in the midst of a harsh, cruel and violent prison she lives a life of love and hope. What would you call someone who has that kind of attitude? That just by walking into a room she could bring calm to a volatile situation. That just by being who she is, her life brings reconciliation. What would you call someone like that? Jesus calls her a peacemaker and a child of God.

Jesus said (Mat 5:9 NIV), “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” A peacemaker is one who:

·        Has peace with God. Jesus makes us right with God when we put our trust (faith) in Him. (Romans 5:1)

·        Leads others to peace with God. They encourage people to be reconciled to God. (2 Cor. 5:20) Sons of God are like God. They demonstrate that they are children of God because they are peacemakers, just like God is a peacemaker.

·        Helps make peace with other people. A Peacemaker builds bridges between people. (Rom. 12:18)

Do you need peace with God? Find it today.

How long has it been since you introduced someone to Jesus, the Prince of Peace?

Do you need to make peace with someone today?


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ninety-nine and Forty-four One Hundredths Percent Pure

Pure Ivory SoapMartin Lloyd-Jones tells the story of a Hindu trader in India who once asked a missionary, "What do you put on your face to make it shine?" With surprise the man of God answered, "I don't put anything on it!" His questioner began to lose patience and said emphatically, "Yes, you do! All of you who believe in Jesus seem to have it. I've seen it in the towns of Agra and Surat, and even in the city of Bombay." Suddenly the Christian understood, and his face glowed even more as he said, "Now I know what you mean, and I will tell you the secret. It's not something we put on from the outside but something that comes from within. It's the reflection of the light of God in our hearts.” 

I like that. It’s not what we put on the outside, but what comes from the inside, in our hearts. And it makes us shine. What an attitude! What would you call someone who has been so changed on the inside that it shows on the outside? Jesus calls it “pure in heart.” He says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.”

How can we become pure in heart? , The answer to that question is found in the beatitudes we've been studying. True Christianity isn't a matter of reformed behavior, but allowing Jesus to live His pure and holy life in and through us. It's becoming poor in spirit, realizing that we're nothing without God. It's mourning our true spiritual condition, damaged and wrecked by sin. It's humbling our lives before God, realizing who we are in light of who he is. It's hungering and thirsting for the deep spiritual satisfaction that only God can provide as we trust in his Son. It's learning to be merciful and gracious to others because God has been merciful and gracious to us.

It's learning to pray like David out of our brokenness, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence. Take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation." And when we come to God, in humility, in our brokenness, taking off the masks, God can and God will make us pure in heart by His grace alone. We will “see God” working in and through us.

What does your outward life show about your inward purity?



Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Amish GrievingOn the morning of October 2, 2006, a troubled milkman named Charles Carl Roberts barricaded himself inside the West Nickel Mine Amish School, ultimately murdering five young girls and wounding six others. Roberts committed suicide when police arrived on the scene. It was a dark day for the Amish community of West Nickel Mines, but it was also a dark day for Marie Roberts—the wife of the gunman—and her two young children.

But on the following Saturday, Marie experienced something truly countercultural while attending her husband's funeral. That day, she and her children watched as Amish families—about half of the 75 mourners present—came and stood alongside them in the midst of their own blinding grief. Despite the crime the man had perpetrated, the Amish came to mourn Charles Carl Roberts—a husband and daddy.

Bruce Porter, a fire department chaplain who attended the service, described what moved him most about the gesture: "It's the love, the forgiveness, the heartfelt forgiveness they have toward the family. I broke down and cried seeing it displayed." He added that Marie Roberts was also touched. "She was absolutely, deeply moved by the love shown." "Amish Mourn Gunman in School Rampage," USA Today (10-7-06)

What an attitude that these Amish families showed to the family of this murderer! What would you call this kind of attitude? Love? Forgiveness? Compassion? Jesus calls it MERCY. In Matthew 5:7 Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.”

If you have been following the progression of the beatitudes in Matthew 5, you have seen that mercy comes from a heart that has first felt its spiritual bankruptcy, and has come to grief over its sin, has learned to surrender meekly to the Lord, and to cry out in hunger for a right relationship with God. Mercy grows up like fruit in a broken heart, a meek spirit and a soul that hungers and thirsts for God. Mercy comes from mercy. Our mercy to each other comes from God's mercy to us.

Jesus gives a powerful illustration of mercy in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37.  The Samaritan who showed mercy:

  • Saw the man in need (v. 33)
  • Responds with a heart of compassion (v. 33)
  • Gave practical help to relieve the man’s distress (v. 34)
  • Followed-up (v. 35)

An eye for distress, a heart of pity, an effort to help, in spite of enmity -- that's mercy.

Who in your world needs a gift of mercy from you this morning? Your spouse? One of your children? A co-worker? A family member? A neighbor? Someone in church? In this quiet moment, ask the Holy Spirit to give you the capacity to extend mercy. Refuse to let your heart become callused, hard, and unloving. Let it go. You owe it to God, you owe it to others, and you owe it to yourself.

Monday, May 17, 2010

31DBBB Feedback Request

FeedbackWelcome, 31DBBB bloggers! Today I am asking for feedback on my blog. Please feel free to give any suggestions you think would be helpful on this site.
Here’s a little bit about me and my blog: I am a pastor of a small church in Grand Junction, CO. If you are interested in my personal story, it’s the first post on this blog. I have been blogging occasionally since I set up our church web site on OCC last year. Just before Paul S. started the 31DBBB thing I moved over to Blogger with a new vision to reaching a larger audience than just my church.
So I have not been at this blogging thing nearly as long as many of you. If you look at my archives in the sidebar you will see that the posts go all the way back to … April. I need all the help I can get.
I know the layout is kind of “plain Jane” (no offense, Jane) but I like the soft color, it’s easy on my eyes. Question1. Is it easy to read?
Having looked at some of the templates, layouts and widgets at Wordpress, I wish I had known it was better than Blogger before I started. I would like to have a picture or something that would be attractive, unique and informative in my header. I just have not found it yet. Q2.  What suggestions would you have for the header or general layout? (And for those of you on Blogger, do you have any tips that make it look better or work better?)
I have played around with the sidebar some since I got requests for feeds and sharing. I have been a little frustrated with Blogger (does it show?). Q3. Does the sidebar have what you are looking for?
The content of my blog is planned to be Biblical, practical help for following Jesus every day (daily discipleship). Q4. Do you find that my posts fit my pitch (Biblical, practical, helpful)?
Finally I know my writing style still sounds still sounds a little like a sermon (I’m a preacher, old habits die hard). I don’t want to come across as “preachy” even though my daughters would say that is just my natural style. Q5. What do you think of my writing style?
As a beginner, I really appreciate all of you who have much more experience in these areas. Anything you want to say might just help this poor preacher be a better blogger (or maybe a better person, I do believe in miracles!). Thanks for the feedback. Hope I can be helpful to you as well.

Happiness of Hunger

I’ve never experienced real starvation. Oh, I’ve been hungry at times. When I was in the Air Force I had to go through S.E.R.E. (Survival Evasion Resistance & Escape) training. For part of this training we had to survive out in the Colorado mountain wilderness for over a week with just a package of K-rations. I don’t know what those survival rations are like today, maybe they’ve improved them in the last 25 years. But the ones we had were left-overs from the Vietnam era. They consisted of two cereal bars and one packet each of instant coffee, salt, and sugar. If you combine cardboard with paste and set it out ‘til it dries hard as a rock, you might come close to the taste and consistency of a K-Rat bar. Early in the week I remember taking a bite of the cereal bar and choking it down with as much water as I had in my canteen. I put the rest back in my pack. But after a few days of little to nothing to eat, even a K-rat bar helps to satisfy that hunger.

Today’s beatitude from the lips of Jesus in Matthew 5:6 is, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Jesus promises blessing to those who hunger and thirst after "righteousness." "Righteousness" means to be in a right relationship with God.

Over and over again God promises to fill and satisfy those who are hungry and thirsty for Him:

1. Psalm 107:9 says, "For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness."

2. Psalm 34:10 says, "The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing."

3. Psalm 23:1 says, "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want."

4. Jeremiah 31:14 says, "And My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, says the LORD."

5. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman in John 4:14, "whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

6. He said to the crowds, who had eaten when He fed the 5,000, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst" (John 6:35).

There is perhaps no greater secret of progress in Christian living than a healthy, hearty, spiritual appetite. How good is my spiritual appetite? What do I crave in my spiritual life? God satisfies only those who are hungry and thirsty for Him.

On a scale from 1 to 10 how hungry am I for spiritual things? What is my attitude toward personal righteousness?  What do I hunger for in life?  To what extent do I hunger for God's Word?  How is my appetite for the truth of the Bible?  How is my appetite for fellowship with other believers?   What is my attitude toward worship?  What is my attitude toward deep spiritual truths?  In what ways am I growing in my love for holiness?  Do I long to be with mature Spirit-filled Christians?  Would I rather be with carnal, immature people?  How hungry am I for the works of the flesh?  Do I sincerely pray "Lord, keep me from temptation and being overcome by sin?" Do I long to have God pronounce the verdict "righteous" as His decision over me in the judgment?

What if we don't have this hunger and thirst--this overwhelming, intense, all-consuming, painful hunger and thirst? It could mean that we are spiritually dead. Why? Dead people don't hunger. Or it could mean we are sick, because sick people often don't hunger either. Let me assure you, hungering and thirsting is a sign of life and health. We must examine ourselves to see whether we are truly hungering and thirsting after righteousness.

Are You Hungry? Skip the K-rat’s of the world. Find true satisfaction in Jesus.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Meek, Not Weak

BoxingRichard Weaver was a semi-professional boxer in his younger days. Fighting, after drinking, just came natural to him. After his conversion to Jesus Christ he tried to live out this different life that Christ had given him, but one night he fell in to his old ways. He beat up a man who had insulted a girl. Feeling that having once fallen, he might as well be guilty of more sin than less, he got drunk. Then he went and broke the jaw of another man who had recently challenged him to a fight and who had taunted him for being a Christian coward.
I tell you this about Richard Weaver to show the contrast when he eventually learned meekness from his Lord. Look for the change of attitude that God gave Weaver as he tells about a later incident that happened in the coal mines where he worked:
I went down (into the coal pit) and found a boy crying because a fellow-workman was trying to take his wagon from him by force. I said to him, “Tom, you mustn’t take that wagon.” He swore at me and called me a (Christian) devil . . . “Well,” I said, “let us see whether the devil and you are stronger than the Lord and me.” And the Lord and me proving stronger than the devil and him, he had to get out of the way, or the wagon would have gone over him. So I gave the wagon to the boy. Then Tom said to me, “I’ve got a good mind to smack you on the face.”
“Well,” I said, “if that will do you any good, then go ahead and do it.” So he struck me on the face. I turned the other cheek to him and said, “Strike again.” He struck again and again till he had struck me five times. I turn my cheek for the sixth stroke; but he had turned away cursing. I shouted after him, “The Lord forgive you, for I do; and the Lord save you!”
This was on Saturday, and when I went home from the coal pit, my wife saw my face was swollen, and asked what was the matter with it. I said, “I’ve been fighting, and I’ve given a man a good thrashing.” She burst out weeping and said, “O Richard, what made you fight?” Then I told her all about it, and she thanked the Lord that I had not struck back. But the Lord had struck, and His blows have more effect than man’s.
Monday came. The devil began to tempt me saying, “The other men will laugh at you for allowing Tom to treat you as he did on Saturday.” I cried, “Get thee behind me Satan,” and went on my way to the coal pit. Tom was the first man I saw. I said “Good morning,” but got no reply. He went down first. When I got down, I was surprised to see him sitting on the wagon-load waiting for me. When I came to him he burst into tears and said, “Richard, will you forgive me for striking you?”
“I have forgiven you,” I said, “ask God to forgive you; the Lord bless you.” I gave him my hand, and we went each to his work. (adapted from William James in God’s Treasure of Virtues). 
What an attitude change had taken place in the heart of Richard Weaver. What strength he showed! What courage! What self-control! If we were to give a name to this new attitude he displayed, what would you call it? The Bible calls it meekness. Today Jesus asks us to check our attitudes when He said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
What is meekness? Meekness is not weakness. You are not meek because you are timid. You are not meek because you are fearful. You are not meek because you are shy. You are not meek because you lack self-confidence. The meek are not the doormats of the world. And meekness is also not simply being nice.
Meekness is not a personality trait, it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit according to Galatians 5:23.  The fruit of the Spirit is a supernatural quality that God produces in us when we have Jesus living through us and we are controlled by His Spirit.
Meek was the word used to describe a wild stallion which had been broken so a man could ride it. A wild stallion when out of control is a dangerous beast. But once broken and under control he is powerfully useful. The master horseman can control his every movement.
Meekness is when we submit all that we have and are to the control of a master, and in this case the Master is Jesus Christ. Now you may begin to see why Jesus puts the beatitudes in this order. First we must be “poor in spirit” recognizing our spiritual bankruptcy before God. Next we must become broken, to “mourn” over our sinful condition, repenting and finding the forgiveness and comfort from Jesus. When we do this we become new creations in Christ and He comes to live within us through the presence of His Holy Spirit. And to be meek is to live a spirit controlled life.
So what does this Spirit controlled life look like? Jesus is the perfect picture of meekness. Jesus says in (Mat 11:29)  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest for your souls.”
Isaiah says this about our Savior, Jesus:
(Isa 53:7 NIV)  He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
Jesus had all the power in the world as the Son of God. Yet He willingly suffered and died for us. He did not fight back or even defend Himself when He was wrongfully accused. Jesus was meek.
A.W. Tozer once wrote, “The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God declared him to be, but he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything. That is his motto."
How are you doing at being meek?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Gladness of Sadness

Have you noticed that we live in a culture that embraces entertainment and pursues pleasure at all costs? For many people, life is spent avoiding sorrow and pain. The mantra of many today is something like this: “Blessed are those who laugh their way through life.” Some of us will do almost anything to stifle our sadness and turn away from tears.

In one of the most profound, and paradoxical texts in the Bible, Jesus declares in Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn; for they will be comforted.”

This Beatitude flows from the first one: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” because spiritual bankruptcy should lead to spiritual brokenness. Of the different words that can be translated, “mourn,” Jesus uses here the strongest one available. It means, “to grieve or wail” as when a loved one dies. It is deep sorrow that causes the soul to ache and the heart to break. Jesus is not talking about complainers or moaners, but about those who are gripped by grief like Psalm 34:18 describes: “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” The haughty heart and the tearless eye should be foreign to the follower of Jesus.

What does Jesus mean by saying we are blessed when we mourn? Maybe we can see by looking at Reasons Why We May Mourn:

1. Lament the losses in your life. Some of you have lost a loved one through death and you still cry yourself to sleep at night. Or, maybe you’re like Hannah in the Bible who “in bitterness of soul wept much and prayed to the LORD” because she wanted to have a child and cold not. What ever your loss here is comfort for those who mourn. Did you know that God collects every tear you shed? Listen to Psalm 56:8, “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into your bottle; Are they not in your book?

Christianity is a religion that allows you to be real. When you’re hurting, let it out. When you feel like crying, let the tears fall. God understands. He cares. And He will provide you with comfort.

2. Be sorrowful about your sins. We can only find the blessing of God in forgiveness when we have godly sorrow over our sin. Have you ever echoed Paul’s agony over sin in Romans 7:24, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” My guess is that most of us today don’t use language like that to describe the state of our souls. But sorrow is essential if we want to truly turn from sin. If we don’t grieve over our guilt, we won’t really understand grace and fully appreciate forgiveness.

3. Cry over the condition of others and our world. In Luke 19 Jesus sees the entire city of Jerusalem in a panoramic view. It was stunning in its beauty with shiny white buildings and the gleaming gold of Herod’s temple. But Jesus saw something different. Everyone was thrilled and happy, with the exception of Him. “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.”

The great reformer of Scotland, John Knox, constantly carried the burden of the lost people of his native land. Night after night, he prayed on the wooden floor of his house. When his wife pleaded with him to get some sleep, he answered, “How can I sleep when Scotland is not saved?”

Comfort comes to those who mourn. Psalm 30:5 says, “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

Sorrow, mourning and weeping serve a purpose in our lives. Listen to the message of this little verse:

I walked a mile with Pleasure, she chatted all the way
But left me none the wiser for all she had to say
I walked a mile with Sorrow and not a word said she
But oh, the things I learned when sorrow walked with me

Quadriplegic JONI EARECKSON TADA said, “You don’t have to be alone in your hurt! Comfort is yours. Joy is an option and it’s all been made possible by your SAVIOR Jesus Christ. He went without comfort so you might have it. He postponed joy so you might share in it. He willingly chose isolation so you might never be alone in your hurt and sorrow.”

What an attitude to have! Joni is a person who understands what it means when Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.”

What about you? Do the things that break the heart of Jesus break your heart? When’s the last time you sorrowed over your sinfulness, cried for Christians, or wailed for the wayward?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bankrupt and Happy

PoorWhat if I told you that those who have nothing, and know they have nothing are the happiest people in the world? Jesus said something like that.
Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”    (Matthew 5:3 NKJV)
The word “poor” comes from a word meaning to shrink, cower, or cringe. It pictures the destitute beggar who has one hand out begging while the other hand covers his face because of shame.
The person who is this kind of poor has nothing and is completely wiped out. Jesus is speaking here of our spiritual need – we are destitute, spiritually bankrupt before God and in need of God’s help to experience forgiveness and eternal life.
To be “poor in spirit” is to recognize how spiritually destitute and utterly dependent I am upon God. It is the attitude of the tax collector or publican in Jesus’ parable in Luke 18. Jesus said this man stood far back, He did not even look up. He was so conscious of his guilt, his sinfulness before a holy God. He beat his breast as an expression of his deep sorrow over his sinfulness. And his prayer was not very elegant, “GOD, BE MERCIFUL TO ME A SINNER.”
This man was poor in spirit. And Jesus said, “THIS MAN WENT HOME JUSTIFIED.”
The beginning point of our relationship with God is for us to understand that we have nothing to bring to God. We can only beg for His mercy and grace because we are spiritually destitute. Dietrich Bonhhoeffer said those who are poor in spirit are, “so inexperienced, so stupid, that they have no other hope but Him who called them.”
Seiji Yamashita writes as justapen at the The Ignition Point blog. He describes so well his poverty of spirit in the poem “Now Is the Time.” Here is an excerpt:
Now is a time to change
to rearrange life & priorities
because I’m sick & tired
worn out
blown out
knocked out and shut down
by the world I see, the world of ME.
Enough of this world of internalized fandom
Help me help you create The Heavenly Kingdom.
The attitude of poverty of spirit brings us to the place where we can receive the kingdom from the king. Do you know why the poor in spirit are blessed? Because when you embrace your poverty you find that He opens His arms of love and accepts you just as you are.
Why spend your life trying to impress God when all He wants is for you to be impressed with Him and His grace?

Want to read more from my series on the beatitudes? See Attitude Check and What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Attitude Check

Attitude CheckName eight things that would make you happy. If God said to you today, "Choose eight things that you feel would make your life happy and I will give them to you," what would you choose? Would it be to win the lottery or to be wealthy? Would you ask for healing and good health for you or your loved ones? Would you ask for that job or that promotion you’ve been wanting? What eight things would you choose?

Would you choose to be poor? Would you choose things such as mourning, meekness, hunger and thirst, to be merciful, pure in heart, a peacemaker; or to experience persecution? Do you think these eight things would make you happy? Jesus says so.

In Matthew 5 Jesus climbs up a mountain on the northern side of the Sea of Galilee. His disciples come to Him. Jesus sits down on the hillside and teaches, giving the greatest sermon that’s ever been preached in the history of the world, the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus opens His mouth and He taught them saying “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3).

He uses the word “blessed” about those who have each of these attitudes (poor, mourning, meekness, hunger and thirst, merciful, purity, peaceable; persecuted). Really, to be blessed is more than to be happy. Happiness can come and go with outward circumstances. “Blessed” refers to the ultimate well-being and inner joy of those who share in the kingdom of God.

Before you conclude that Jesus is wrong, consider the opposites of those qualities: attitudes like pride, pleasure-seeking, aggressiveness, compromising, impurity, cruelty, hatred and cowardice. Would you be blessed with those attitudes?

Max Lacado in his book, the Applause of Heaven, tells the story of Robert Reed:

His hands are twisted and his feet are useless. He can’t bathe himself. He can’t feed himself. He can’t brush his teeth, comb his hair, or put on his underwear. Strips of Velcro hold his shirts together. His speech drags like a worn out audiocassette.

Robert has cerebral palsy. The disease keeps him from driving a car, riding a bike, and going for a walk. But it didn’t keep him from graduating from high school or attending Abilene Christian University, from which he graduate with a degree in Latin. Having cerebral palsy didn’t keep him from teaching at St. Louis junior college or from venturing overseas on five mission trips.

And Robert’s disease didn’t prevent him from becoming a missionary in Portugal.

He moved to Lisbon, alone, in 1972. There he rented a hotel room and began studying Portuguese. He found a restaurant owner who would feed him after the rush hour and a tutor who would instruct him in the language.

Then he stationed himself daily in a park, where he distributed brochures about Christ. Within six years he led seventy people to the Lord, one of whom became his wife, Rosa.

When Robert spoke at a church service Max watched other men carry him in his wheelchair onto the platform. They laid a Bible in his lap. His stiff fingers forced open the pages. People in the audience wiped away tears of admiration from their faces. Robert could have asked for sympathy or pity, but he did just the opposite. He held his bent hand up in the air and said triumphantly, “I have everything I need for joy.”

His shirts are held together by Velcro, but his life is held together by joy.

What holds your life together? Today and for the next few days I want us to check our attitude. And I hope that by hearing what Jesus says about it we will become the “blessed.”

Which list more accurately describes your attitude today, or over the last week?

Monday, May 10, 2010

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

Can you remember being asked what you wanted to be when you grow up? My son wanted to be a farmer so he could drive the big tractors and combines. I heard of one little boy who wanted to be a car mechanic or a garbage collector. When asked why he replied, "So's I can get dirty!"

Imagine asking Jesus what He would have us be when we grow up. We might be surprised at the answer. Jesus told His disciples what He wanted to see them become. You can read it in Mark 10:42-45. He told them, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.  And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

In effect Jesus said, "I want you to be different. I want you to be a servant." How many people would willingly choose “servant” as a career path today? When Jesus walked this earth, He was surrounded by thousands of people who were attracted to Him. Whenever He had the opportunity He would talk to people about what they should be when they grow up. Of course He was speaking to them about grow in maturity in the kingdom of God.

The way we serve God according to Jesus is a lot different than many religious people think. Jesus pointed this out over and over again in His Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5,6 & 7. Jesus turned the religious world of His day on its head. Over and over again He said,

·        Mt. 5:21-22 "You have heard...but I say to you..."

·        Mt. 5:27-28 "You have heard...but I say to you..."

·        Mt 5:33 -34 "You have heard...but I say to you..."

·        Mt 5:38 -39 "You have heard...but I say to you..."

·        Mt 5:43 -44 "You have heard...but I say to you..."

Talking about the prayers of the religious hypocrites and the pagans Jesus said, "Therefore, do not be like them," (Matt. 6:8).

In Matthew 5:1-12 Jesus gives us one of the greatest portraits of a servant ever recorded. These are the marks of true discipleship.  Here Jesus spells out eight character traits that identify true servanthood, a true disciple.  

Over the next few days we will spend time learning about each of these characteristics. Let’s see what we can learn about Jesus and about ourselves.

Let  me know what you think:

·        What did you want to grow up to be?

·        Have you ever considered that Jesus is more concerned with your character than your career?

Friday, May 7, 2010

How to Improve Your IQ – Spiritual Health Exam #5

Lying is a problem, and that’s the truth.

Untruthfulness is very common as seen in the following statistics from the 1991 book The Day America Told the Truth by James Patterson and Peter Kim:

     91% of people lie routinely about matters they consider trivial

     36% lie about important matters

     86% lie regularly to their parents

     75% lie regularly to their friends

     73% lie regularly to their siblings

     69% lie regularly to their spouses

     59% lie regularly to their kids

     69% of Americans believe there is nothing wrong with telling a lie

This is a real problem when we consider that many of these Americans consider themselves to be Christians, even born-again believers. What ever happened to integrity? If there were a way to measure your IQ (Integrity Quotient), how high would it be?

Today’s spiritual health exam is on integrity: What’s my Integrity Quotient (IQ)?

David writes in Psalm 26:9-11, “Do not gather my soul with sinners, Nor my life with bloodthirsty men,  In whose hands is a sinister scheme, And whose right hand is full of bribes.  But as for me, I will walk in my integrity; Redeem me and be merciful to me.”

David makes a conscious decision to walk in integrity. David may not have been perfect, but he decided to be honest. And on the basis of God’s mercy he asks the Lord to make it happen. He says, “Redeem me and be merciful to me.” David knows he cannot make it happen on his own. He needs a merciful redeemer.

Integrity starts with being honest with ourselves and honest to God. If we can start there, God can take us the rest of the way.

How are you doing on integrity? Is it easy for you to be honest? When is it hard?


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Church, Love It or Hate It -- Spiritual Exam # 4

Did you go to church last Sunday? Perhaps that word, “church” turns you off. Maybe this is a better question for those reading this on the internet: Do you have a faith community you regularly attend? Call it what you will, I still love church.

Most of what I know about the Lord and about real Christians I have learned in the local church.  It was in the church that I learned the importance of the Bible.  It was there that I learned to worship.  In the church I received encouragement and learned to build up others. I learned to share my faith and to be a witness for the Lord.  My first glimpse of world missions came through the Lottie Moon International missions emphasis at Christmas time.  In the church I witnessed lives being transformed, heard missionaries speak of Christ working in far off countries, and saw souls won to the Lord.  It was in the church that I learned to really pray, to give to the Lord’s work, and to preach God’s Word.

Church attendance nourishes and strengthens the spiritual life, but research has also shown other benefits. Josh Ulick, in a 2003 article in Newsweek magazine, reports that people who regularly attend church live longer. In studying the relationship between religion and health, researchers came upon a strong and persuasive finding: Those who did not attend church lived an average of 75 years; less than weekly attendance, lived 80 years; once a week 82 years; and those who attended church more than once a week lived an average of 83 years. Research indicates a person attending church weekly is less likely to become depressed, and more likely to exercise, quit smoking, and stop drinking (Josh Ulick, "Why Religion Helps," Newsweek, (11-10-03), p.47;).

In Psalm 26 David has asked the Lord to “Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart.” And then he shows areas in which the Lord can exam his spiritual health. The one for today is: Do I regularly and wholeheartedly worship with God’s people?

David writes in Psalm 26:6-8  I will wash my hands in innocence; So I will go about Your altar, O LORD,  That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, And tell of all Your wondrous works.  LORD, I have loved the habitation of Your house, And the place where Your glory dwells.”

David loved to gather with others at the house of the Lord to worship. His worship included:

  1. Cleansing from sin – “I will wash my hands in innocence.”
  2. Gathering for worship with others – “I will go about Your altar.”
  3. Giving thanks to God – "I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving.”
  4. Testifying of what God had done – “tell of all Your wondrous works.”
  5. Expressing love for God’s presence – “loved the habitation of Your house.”
  6. Honoring God – “the place where Your glory dwells.”
Do you have a regular and wholehearted time of worship?