Humble Hearts Kingdom

One statistic that I often share when talking about the Front Porch Initiative is the statistic that self-centeredness has increased 30% in the past 30 years among college students according to a study conducted by San Diego State University.   This narcissism has impacted our ability to show empathy and will continue to have an impact on our communities. That’s why deepening our relationships and getting to know others is so important.

Today in Matthew 20 we read about a mother putting her own desires first for her children above God.

Jesus had just got done telling his disciples on their journey to Jerusalem that he would be leaving them soon. That He would be mocked, flogged, and crucified.  Still, just like we can do, just like I can do, we think of ourselves and what’s in it for us.  Not what is eternally most important. Sadly, the next story shared in Matthew 20 after Jesus foretelling His death is the request of power/position in Heaven and being able to sit on the right and left of Jesus.

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus gave his life for us.  Every way He physically lived  was for us.  Every living word written is for us.  In a world and time where being great is about self promotion or pride.  Jesus has been saying to be great in His kingdom we must be least.  Reflecting personally easily brings tears to my eyes.  Even in this day as I on reflected Matthew 20 I made so much of this day about me.  I focus on things I may have to do for work, whether or not my favorite team will win, how my children are behaving.  Not really thinking about what is truly important. In listening to Grace To You by John McArthur on this chapter I think about the question John Mcarthur was asked many times, ” Who will be those who receive the greatest reward in Heaven?’ He will say, ” Those who suffered the most in life for the cause of Jesus Christ.”

I can only repent and pray for Jesus to work on my selfishness. To grab hold of my heart and mind as I look not to myself or this world, but to Him.  Put my pride in check.  Here are a few reminder verses that can remind me God’s view on pride.

Proverbs 21:4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin.

Proverbs 16:5 Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
    be assured, he will not go unpunished.

That in Psalm 31:23 it says He recompenses the proud or in Psalm 18:27 the proud will be brought low.

So instead of a prideful heart, I know I need to be more humble. Micah 6:8 says He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth Jehovah require of thee, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Proverbs 15:33 says The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honor is humility.

Colossians 3:12 says, ” So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;”

So here are a few verses to help us put our pride in check.  That or worldly desires will mean nothing next to our place in Heaven.  I pray to always be a servant leader without asking… what’s in it for me? I pray for us to live with humility and selflessness knowing and trusting that God has a perfect plan for all of us. Our greatest plans won’t ever compare to the reward in Heaven through a selfless, humble, and faithful life.

God told us it wouldn’t be easy.  We need to continue to trust and have faith in His plans for us!  What do you need to let go of? To humbly ask Him to work on your heart. To put away our earthly desires and spread His good news!

Have a blessed Tuesday in all you do.

Temptation

Today’s Reading: Matthew 6:13 and Psalm 76

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Matthew 6:13

 Good morning Monday readers. As the temps finally begin to rise and we are seeing God’s work in the blooming tulips we have the opportunity to dive deep into the next verse of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Today, we’re focusing on temptation. As soon as I hear that word, I start thinking about tasty chocolates and expensive purses! Our family is moving to a new home this week and I’ve been forced to face the reality of my sin when it comes to materialism. I’ve given away and yet it still seems as if we have so much. It’s taken so much discipline to avoid purchasing more things! How many of us are filled with wordly desire when we walk into the store? This may lead us to ask, why did God bring temptation to our lives? The Bible teaches that God doesn’t lead us to temptations but he does allow us to be tested by them. Of course, we’re not alone in it. All Christians struggle with temptation. The enemy often chooses to tempt us when we are vulnerable. When we are under physical or emotional stress he uses that opportunity to convince us that we can get reassurance and comfort from things other than God. When we are lonely, tired or faced with a difficult decision it can be easy to look to food, shopping, the computer or phone for comfort. As we meditate and pray on the role of temptation in our life, I invite you to spend some time writing and reflecting on the three areas in which the enemy tempts us:

  • Physical Needs and Desires
  • Possessions and Power
  • Pride

Take some time to write down the ways in which you are personally tempted in these three areas. Ask God to forgive you for the times you’ve given in to temptation. By making ourselves aware of how subtle temptations start us down the path of sin, we can begin to change.

Make your vows to the Lord your God and perform them;
let all around him bring gifts to him who is to be feared, who cuts off the spirit of princes, who is to be feared by the kings of the earth. Psalm 76:11-12

 

An Audience of One

John 12

The church I grew up in celebrates Holy Week with a Palm Sunday celebration and then a Maundy Thursday and Good Friday combined evening service and of course, Easter service on Sunday morning. I can remember walking into the church in the choir as a child carrying palm branches and singing about Jesus being king as we read about today in John 12 when he enters Jerusalem. This section in my Bible is appropriately called “The Triumphant Entry,” as the people shouted “Hosanna” and called Jesus” the King of Israel.”  Later in the week, in our combined Maundy Thursday/Good Friday service, we would turn off the lights at the end. There was a spotlight on a large, wooden cross in the front and sitting in dead silence, someone came the microphone yelling “Crucify him..Crucify him!”  Then, there was a wooden block being hit with a hammer 3 times loudly to represent the nails being driven into Jesus’ feet and both hands. I cringed with each strike of the block. We then sat in the dark with no one saying a word or moving for a few minutes which felt like an hour! Whoa! The lights came on and that was everyone’s cue to file out in silence. People would talk in the lobby, but the buzz, cheerfulness, and mood was a little different than the normal Sunday service.

On Easter Sunday, it was a time for celebration and the buzz and cheerfulness was back again. The palms were back, lilies were all around the church, a white sash hung on the cross to represent us being washed clean of our sins, and the sun seemed to always be shining on Easter morning. He is risen!

It was perplexing to me growing up, and still is  today, that Jesus was adorned as a king by a crowd and then just a few days later another crowd, with maybe some of the same people, shouted for him to be crucified.

Often in our life, we can feel like we are on top of the world. Maybe we get a big promotion, secure a big client, have someone praise us for a job well done, family relationships are great, and everything seems to be going our way. And then out of nowhere a job is lost, a client leaves you, a falling out with a family member occurs, you are criticized by a boss, you have an unexpected financial hardship, or even a divorce. Where does your identity come from in these low moments? I don’t know about you, but I feel it is hard not to lose confidence in myself during these challenging times because I can mistakenly get puffed up when others are telling me good job, and I put my self-worth and happiness based on what others are saying when things are going well. It is then equally as bad as it was good and my self-worth and confidence can decrease when others are critical of me or when nothing seems to be going right.

We don’t know Jesus’ thoughts on Palm Sunday as he was being praised like a king, but something tells me based off his humbleness and servant leadership throughout his lifetime that he was not puffed up and proud. During his toughest times on the cross, his focus was not on himself, but on others as he said in Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus did not put his identity and worth in what others thought about him. He knew who he truly was, and most importantly, whose he was.

When things are going well, let’s remember to give glory and praise to him and not be prideful and think it’s by our own doing. James 1:17 says “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above..” When things aren’t going so well, let’s not be discouraged by what others think, and let’s remind ourselves that we are living for an audience of one. Let’s remember who we are and whose we are. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” If we look in the mirror and we’ve made mistakes we are not proud of (and we all have), let’s be thankful instead of sad. This is why Jesus came and died on the cross. Our identity is in him and in his unconditional love for us. Let’s hold fast, for we know what is coming, the sunshine and celebration of Easter morning! He is risen…he is risen indeed!

 

Two Diseases

1200px-Biohazard.svgDeuteronomy 13–14; Psalms 99–101; Isaiah 41; Revelation 11

According to John Calvin, “every man labors under two diseases. In prosperity, he exalts himself extravagantly, and shakes off the restraint; of humility and moderation; but, in adversity, he either rages, or lies in a lifeless condition, and scarcely has the smallest  perception of the goodness of God.”[1]  I was thinking about this as I read Psalm 100 today.  Consider how each of these “diseases” cause us to interpret the Scripture differently.

Psalm 100 (ESV) In Prosperity In Adversity
1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Declare your gratification and happiness for everyone to see. Grumble to all the world, as loud as you can!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!   Come into his presence with singing! Be happy with what you have done. Sing away, life is good! Do your work, even in agony. Come into God’s presence with despondency
3 Know that the Lord, is God! Know that you have everything under control. Where is God?
It is he who made us, and we are his; We have evolved so wonderfully If he didn’t want us to be this way, he shouldn’t have made us this way!
and the sheep of his pasture We live in the land of plenty.  Go get yours! God doesn’t care!
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise! Look what you have done for yourself. Others should come to you for help! Go to God complaining and blaming him for all your problems.
Give thanks to him; bless his name! You should be thanked for all that you have done! Curse God for all of your troubles!
For the Lord is good; Man, you am good; The Lord is tired of us all!
His steadfast love endures forever for all the days of your life His wrath is upon us.
and his faithfulness to all generations Your kids and your kid’s kids will be set for life! we are on our own.

Father God, help us to see our attitudes as they really are and make us aware of the spiritual diseases in our hearts.  Heal our hearts, Lord, with your Word and your Truth.  Make them new.

[1]
Calvin, John (2011-11-15). Calvin’s Complete Bible Commentaries (With Active Table of Contents in Biblical Order) (Kindle Locations 173172-173175). . Kindle Edition.

You are [not] awesome!

Today’s reading: Numbers 4; Psalm 38; Song of Solomon 2; Hebrews 2

April 27th, 2016

pride puffed up

This is not meant to be mean nor an accusation, simply a truth that the deceiver would have us reject for a puffed up view of ourselves. You and I, we are not awesome. Psalm 38 is a great example of living by this truth.

David starts by acknowledging his wretchedness as he begs God not to chasten him in His hot displeasure. He then proceeds to address his hopeless condition, his self imposed troubles are too heavy for him. He proclaims God as his only hope, dismissing all the worldly places to turn to for refuge and help including his own self. As he stills himself, he begs God to hear him in the intensity of his troubles where a single slip leads to the advance of the enemy. He puts all his trust in God. Rejecting the world and himself. He needs God and he knows it. He knows God is the source for all good that he so desperately needs. Do you need God? 

Pride and Self Righteousness

Pride leads one to believe they do not need God. Self righteousness is the form of pride that takes this lie and projects it out in a way that attempts to steal what is God’s. Wherein self dares look out towards our fellows and up toward God as if to say “look at me.” 

Let’s define self righteousness in terms of God’s love. He so loved a wretch like me that He gave His only Son to save me while I was still a sinner. All the while He knew that I would take this amazing gift of His love and parade it around as if it was my own. He knew this and He still paid for me. He purchased me and you with His only Son. Praise God for His unconditional love! He is love! Self righteousness is pride that attempts to steal God’s goodness for ourselves. We are not worthy. (Revelation 4:11) Self righteousness is parading around as if you are a source of good. Do not be deceived. All good is from God. (James 1:17)

In George Whitfield’s famous sermon, Method of Grace, he describes self-righteousness as “the last idol taken out of your heart.” Many a scholar believe pride to be the great sin. Self righteousness then seems to be the worst sort of pride. Wretched and perverted stuff indeed. 

Proprietorship

A false sense of ownership seems to be at the core of pride and self righteousness. You know your Bible and have understanding where another perhaps does not, are you doing better than they are? You gave that homeless person some food and shelter, you’re doing pretty well huh? No actually, God prepared that good work for you ahead of time. (Ephesians 2:8-10) It is His, not yours. (James 1:17) 

Did you know that the most used words in our language are I, me, my and mine? How ugly is that? Pride is to be hated. (Proverbs 8:13, Proverbs 16:5) Why does God hate pride? Why is God jealous? (Deuteronomy 4:24) Why does God guard His name jealously? (Ezekiel 39:25) God is love. If people are supposed to know we are His disciples by how we love (John 13:35), what happens when we try to have the source of that love point to us?

 

Extra credit:

  1. A simple exercise. Try to not use the words I, me, my or mine today.
  2. Self examination in pride. A checklist for self examination in pride: Manifestations of Pride from Exemplary Husband.
  3. Read George Whitefield’s sermon, Method of Grace, where he lays out the steps on how to obtain the peace that transcends all understanding among the devil’s worst attacks of self deception, including self righteousness.
  4. A question to wrestle with. Should we be praising each other? To win friends our culture points to praise and feeding another’s ego as go-to secrets to success, but what does the Bible say? Here’s one verse to consider in your study. Proverbs 29:5 What is the difference between praise and encouragement?
  5. Further readings on proprietorship in pride.
    1. All good is from God. What should we do when we receive false praise for good? One response to consider, redirect it to make sure it goes where it belongs by saying praise God
    2. God is sovereign. He owns it all. Learn this truth and be freed from the woes of comparison and jealousy.