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Comparing ourselves to others-Good or Bad idea?

Comparing ourselvesThe sermon on this topic, presented April 23rd, can be heard at this link. This post will handle the first part of the lesson and subsequent posts the rest. You don’t have to wait though….Listen now!

We make comparisons all the time. For example, we compare things when we are looking to buy them. Which Refrigerator is best? Which clothing lines fit my style or principles? Which cars will have the best features? What is the cheapest? Has the best value? Is the coolest?

Comparing things is one thing but should we compare people? More specifically, should we compare ourselves to other people? There are two answers to that and depending on the perspective you use for the comparison, the proper answer can be “Yes” or “No”.

On one hand, we compare and we fall short.

Sometimes, we compare ourselves to others and we think that we fall short of a particular standard. For example, when Moses was told by God to go back to Egypt and tell Pharaoh that he needed to let Israel go, Moses had a few thoughts about his ability to do that.

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exo 3:11)

But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” (Exo 4:10)

Moses did not think he measured up to the task that God was giving him. Of course, we aren’t confronted with a burning bush and the voice of God today but we still have tasks to do that we are able to do….God doesn’t demand more than we can do.

Comparisons that leave us feeling like we are not good enough are not good comparisons. Today’s world is full image projections that we somehow digest into our brains to think that WE need to be like that, believe this way, act this way, look this way, dress this way….and of course, use this toothpaste!

It has been reported that one Supermodel reportedly said that she even wished she looked like herself. No, she wasn’t being arrogant, she was being realistic. Because by the time photos are through being photo-shopped and manipulated, the image may look like the person but the person does not look like the image. All flaws are gone and sometimes so is extra weight, short necks, the correct color of eyes…etc. etc.

Life is not photo-shopped.

We should not look at others and think…I am not good enough, but often we do.

On the other hand, we can compare ourselves with others and think that they are not good enough.

The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector helps us to see this principle.

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luk 18:10-14)

There are lots of comparisons in this Pharisee’s life.

  • I am not…
  • I do this…
  • I am soooo good, you are really lucky to have me in your life God! (Well, he didn’t quite say that but it was close.)

Read the parable of the Prodigal son in Luke 15 and you will see the older brother’s reaction to the Prodigal’s return was also a bunch of comparison.

But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ (Luk 15:28-30 emphasis mine)

Consider carefully if you compare  yourself with others and find yourself falling into one of these two situations: Falling short or elevating yourself. Neither one is good.

We should not compare ourselves with others based on what they have but on who they are. More on this thought next time.

Do you compare yourself with others to make yourself feel better or to justify your own feelings of inferiority? Try being content with what you have, you will find it more satisfying.

How to be poor even if you are rich.

Brotherly affection is one of those qualities that Peter tells us that we need to add to our faith. He promises to us that if we have it and increase in it that we will receive a valuable benefit. First, we will not be ineffective as a Christian; second, we will not be unfruitful as a Christian; third, we will not stumble and finally, we will be given entrance into the Kingdom of Jesus.  But what happens when we do not have brotherly affection? To answer this question, let’s look at the Prodigal son’s brother.

After the Prodigal had returned and his father was celebrating this return, the brother came in from the field and found out “there was a party goin’ on.”

But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'”  (Luk 15:28-32 ESV)

He shows us how to be poor even if you are rich because…

He had no compassion on his brother.

Really, one might say that he didn’t even consider him to be his brother. “This son of yours” is a clear indication that he had separated from his the prodigal. Rather than rejoicing at the return of this prodigal to his good senses and to the family,  the brother is more concerned about the party that is being thrown. Perhaps he considered it  a  further waste of his inheritance since the prodigal had wasted his portion.

He was short sighted.

He focused on the service he had given his father and yet, never had received such a party for his friends as his father was throwing for the prodigal.  I rather doubt that this is completely true. In my own life, I know that I have exaggerated in order to justify my position. The use of the word “never” is key. What’s this? The father who is so generous to the returning prodigal NEVER(?) did anything nice for his son, never (?) threw a party for him, never(?) lavished him with gifts or some other present?

It may also be that the son had never asked. The father indicates that the son has access to what the Father had, could it be that he never asked for a party?

He bore a grudge.

There are many reasons why he could be upset with the Prodigal brother but he directs his anger at the party and the father. Why are you being so nice to him? In the parable, we see the Prodigal returning to the father to ask forgiveness. Perhaps this Prodigal needed to do the same thing to his brother. It was, after all, a sudden departure that robbed the family not just of physical wealth but relational wealth.  However, the brother would rather hold the grudge than confront his Prodigal brother (who, if I read the story correctly, would have begged forgiveness). This grudge would keep them separated longer now and it was not longer the Prodigal who was missing but the brother who is leaving (not physically but relationally).

He may have been envious.

In many contexts I have heard a sentiment expressed that says in so many words: If I had not been a Christian, I would have been able to enjoy this or that pleasure of life before getting saved. That is an expression of envy and unworthy of those who are called by the name of Christ. We envy those who are enjoying the pleasures of this world because we see ourselves restricted by the “rules” of being God’s sons.  Would we also envy their fate if they do not return?

The Prodigal’s brother was rich but he was really poor. Until his brother’s return, this poverty was not so easily noticed. Perhaps his father had realized this, maybe the father felt like he had lost two sons the day the prodigal left.

The application of this should be easy: If we are the brother who is still at home in the household of God, let us not fail to realize and recognize the benefits we have by serving our Heavenly Father. Let us also realize that we have a brother (or sister) who has left and needs to be welcomed back with open arms if they return.  We should not envy them, bear a grudge, or feel that their return will in any way diminish our reward.

Question: Are there other undesirable qualities that the brother showed in this parable?

photo credit: Martin Young 42

Three examples of Brotherly Affection we can imitate!

The concept of love can be confusing under the best of circumstances. However, throw our frequent use of the word into the equation and we really get lost. Growing up, my siblings and I would often make fun of this frequent use. If my brother said “I love this ice-cream”, my response in big brotherly sarcasm was “why don’t you marry it then?” Silly I know. It is also, perhaps,  the opposite of what I am trying to illustrate in this post!

Understanding  that Phileo love is generated from an affection and devotion to a person or thing, helps us as we try to add this very important characteristic to our faith. Three Biblical examples will help us understand this type of love so that we can imitate it in our lives as Christians. In each, the word love is not in the text.

Example #1: Barnabas

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Act 4:34-37 ESV)

He was not the only one who did this. Many did. There was a desire to help those who were in need. While it might be argued that this is an example of Agape love (duty bound), I would suggest that Barnabas did not do it for any other reason than a devotion to and affection for those who had obeyed the Gospel and now were in need.

This example is in contrast to Ananias and Sapphira in Chapter 5. Even though they also sold a field, there was not affection for anyone but their own selves. God was not fooled.

Lesson to be learned: Brotherly affection will help us loosen the ties to the material things we own.

Example #2: Onesiphorus

You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me– may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!–and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.  (2Ti 1:15-18 ESV)

Many turned away from Paul in his time of need. However, Onesiphorus (try saying that three times fast!) did not. Not only did he want to help Paul, but he searched diligently for him until he found him. Also, he did not let Paul’s imprisonment become, either a cause for shame or a fear that being Paul’s friend might get him put in jail also.

Lesson to be learned: Affection for our fellow Christians will help us overcome mundane worldly concerns for our own safety or social status.

Example #3: Jesus

Picking one example may be hard to do but look at the feeding of the four thousand.

In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.”  (Mar 8:1-3 ESV)

What makes this act of compassion so important is that the recipients of His compassion were not Jews but Gentiles. (cf Mark 7:24, he leaves the borders of Israel) In this example, again a possible example of Agape love, we see His affection for those who were  also His creation but not treated so well by those who were in the covenant relationship with Him.

Of course, Jesus died to tear down that wall of separation (cf Eph 2:11ff) and it appears that he started tearing it down a little bit before before He died too. This is similar to Good Samaritan and once again shows that those who prove to be the neighbor are the ones who help in time of need.

One cannot read the Bible and draw the conclusion that we are allowed to hold back on the brotherly love. Additionally, while our responsibility is clearly to our own kindred in Christ first, it does not prohibit us from showing (and perhaps even requiring that we show) this same kindness to our lost spiritual “brother”, created in God’s image also, as we have an opportunity to do so.

Lesson to be learned: Brotherly Affection may start with those that we a lot in common with but as we grow in compassion, we may find opportunities to share affection with non Christians too.

Question: What are the best examples you have seen of an individual showing brotherly kindness to another brother?

Photo credit: sbhland (If you look closely, you will see several photos by this individual that picture the story of the Good Samaritan)

Things needed to train for godliness

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If I asked you what you needed in order to train for a marathon, you probably would be able to suggest some items that are necessary. Perhaps the right equipment, perhaps the right nutrition, education, coach and so forth would be items you would suggest. What does it take to train oneself for godliness? Again, perhaps a number of items might come to mind. Over the next several posts, I would like to share some items you need in order to train yourself for godliness.

Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1Ti 4:7-8 ESV)

Number one need: Desire!

If you do not desire to be godly, it will not matter what else you might acquire in this process. If you bought the equipment for a marathon, shoes, shorts and even registered for a marathon but did not have the desire to run a marathon, it would profit nothing.

So many people think that they can have a little bit of God in their life but their heart is not in it. They have no real desire to be like God, have a heart like God, imitate God except in those occasions where they think it will benefit them. They take business courses on how the Golden Rule is the best way to operate a business but do not get the meat of the principle. They think that having a form of godliness (without the actual heart of godliness) will help them but it will not.

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing… imagining that godliness is a means of gain. (1Ti 6:3-5 ESV)

God calls everyone. He encourages all, he even carries the weak but He pulls and drags no one. We are not dragged, kicking and screaming into a relationship with Him. This is not say that he will not work on us and discipline us. He does not just give up at the first defiant “NO!”  but if you don’t want a godly character, he will let you live the way you want to. (Read Romans 1:18-32)

Of course, our desire may be there and a little weak. Although he was talking about faith, I think the plea of the father in Mark 9:24 is appropriate. “I believe, help my unbelief”, only we say “I desire, help my lack of desire.” A person with this attitude is one who can be worked with and willing to learn and be led.

Do you have a desire to be godly? Do you see this as a characteristic that you want to cultivate in your life? In the next few posts, I am going to suggest some items you will need in order to make the character of godliness a reality in your life. What do you think the next item will be?

Testing faith

So you go to the bookstore and find three books that you wish to purchase. You hand the books to the cashier and walk out with the books in your bag, a receipt, and a vague feeling that the amount is not correct for your purchase. The vague feeling quickly becomes a confirmation in your car before you leave. You have been overcharged! Instead of three books, your receipt reflects four. What do you do?

(Insert 30 second pause here)

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How many of you did not need 30 seconds? How many of you knew that you would immediately march back into the store, receipt in hand, and point out the error. Would you also discuss with yourself  “Self, what if they do not believe me?” The answer would be obvious, you would ask for a manager. It would be important to you to correct this error. The clerk made a mistake and should not have done so. It must be corrected, it will be corrected. You do not even leave the parking lot.

This is a reasonable conclusion. You may have concern about being believed but you wouldn’t let it stop you. You would be just and righteous if you were to return to correct the problem.

So let’s revisit this situation again, only this time, instead of being charged twice for one your books, you get to the car, check your receipt and that vague feeling is again confirmed. This time, you notice that he only charged you for two books, not three. What do you do?

(Insert 30 second pause here)

I would hope that no one needed more time deciding what to do in this scenario than they did in the previous one. Unfortunately, we have grown up in a society where if the mistake benefits “me” then we will just keep our mouth shut. The justifications range from  “He should have noticed it—his loss”  or “They can afford the loss–it is after all a big company” to the outrageous ones “God has blessed me!”

Unless two parties are agreed that something took place, how can you call it an honest transaction?  Sure mistakes are made and sometimes correcting them takes a lot of time but at least, by calling it to the attention of the other party you allow the unintentionally self inflicted harm to be corrected.

Honesty is always right. Integrity cannot be shown only when things are in your favor.

As you leave the store, the second time you feel good because the total is right. Neither of you lost money, the transaction was as it should be. Price offered and willingly paid.

James says that when trials come that our faith is tested. (James 1:2) I think many consider this faith that James mentions to be a belief in God’s existence. I think that he means instead, that we will test what kind of faith (trust) in God that we have.  We will learn, after the test, if our life matches the life His Son led. WWJD?

Three more steps to eliminate fear

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One should never go through life afraid. Fear is something that hampers not just our potential ability but also our current ability. When one gives into fear, even those things that can easily be done start to become the Goliath’s that challenge us.  Yesterday we looked at three steps that can help us eliminate fear from our life.

The primary reason for eliminating this fear is to become more like Jesus. No passage that I am aware of ever says that Jesus experienced the emotion of fear. His relationship with God is a primary reason for that and while we strive to become more like him, we take baby steps towards removing our fears.

Additional Step number one: Speak with confidence.

Asserting something in all confidence is a practice that anyone can use. State what you believe to be true. It not only causes others to take heart but just the proclamation leaving your own lips can embolden you too. When Daniel’s three friends were given a second chance to bow down to the idol the King made, this was their response:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”  (Dan 3:16-18)

Speaking like this may seem suicidal but, really, if there was any smattering of doubt or mildness of temptation in their minds, such a declaration would chase it far from them.

Additional step number two: Remember God is in control.

That same passage also illustrates that we should always remember that God is in control. Apparently they did not know the end of the matter. Neither do we in our own lives. Too often we make bold plans and do not allow God to be part of them. We are like those in James 4 who are rebuked for planning and not so much as even saying “If the Lord wills…”

Daniel’s friends did not say God would deliver them in a prideful way. They simply acknowledged the boundary that God had set up: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” We are not going to cross it even if we do die, they indicated to the King. They let God be God and they just followed along. As I asked in a post a couple of days ago, “What’s the worst that can happen?” If they survive, they continue on in this world, if they were burned up, then they would rejoice in before God’s throne. Which would be better for you?

Job also had this attitude: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” He would not blame or accuse God rashly. No sin escaped his lip.

Additional step number three: Focus on the realities and not what might happen.

Jeroboam did not focus on reality when he became king. The ten northern tribes made him their king just as God had said they would. However, Jeroboam was apparently afraid that they would return to the King of Judah if they went up to Jerusalem to worship God. So he took matters into his own hand:

And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. (1Ki 12:26-29)

Had he only exalted God, the result would have been different. Many times others have shown the same fear and, in that fear turned away from God. Israel in the wilderness choose fear over God by listening the report of the ten spies. Another king of Israel responded with worry when Namman came to be healed rather than send him to the Prophet right away.

The Pharisees responded to Jesus with fear too. They feared that their position would be taken away and so, rather than accepting the Messiah, they sought a means to kill him. (John 11:46-48) Fear of change can be a powerful force and because they gave into it, indeed not just their position, but their whole nation, was taken away from them.

Fear should not be accepted as an option. Let’s follow Jesus’ example of no fear and work to remove what fear we have.

Three steps to imitate Jesus’ lack of fear!

google imagesFear is sometimes explained as an acronym with each letter representing a word: False Expectations Appearing Real. However, as you read the Bible there is one person that is never described as being afraid: Jesus. Why is this? Jesus showed many emotions but fear is not one of them. Until last week, I had never thought of that and to my knowledge have never heard anyone mention it before. (If you can find a scripture that would suggest otherwise, share it!)

It doesn’t seem that Jesus ever had any false expectations. He knew why he had come and what he needed to do. Why would you fear the very task for which you have been born? But we fear many things in our life and most of those never need to be feared.

I am going to offer three steps today that will help us remove fear or at least minimize it. If Jesus did not have fear and we are to imitate Him, then this would be a good thing to work on. Perfect Love casts out fear. (I john 4:18)

Step one: Learn more about God.

This is best done when we are young. Parents have the responsibility to teach us about God and instruct us in His ways. (Dt. 6 and Eph. 6) David wrote that a young man can cleanse his ways by taking God’s word into account (Ps 119:19) Yet, even as we grow older we can still learn more about God. Moses didn’t really start learning about God until he was 80 years old.

In learning about God, you will learn about His character. He is ever-present to help those of his household. If God is for us, who can be against us? God does not allow us to be tempted above what we can bear and we can have confidence in His promises because He does not lie. (Rom 8:31, I cor 10:13, Heb 6:17-18) No wonder Jesus was able to be asleep in the bow of the ship during a storm that frightened the apostles (Mark 4:38-41), he knew the promise of the Father that He would be protected while on earth so that the mission would go forward. Though misapplied by Satan in Matthew 4, the scripture was accurately quoted.

Step two: The Lord has conquered the truly great reasons to be afraid.

While fear of public speaking is one that outranks death in most surveys, if you never had to speak in public you would be fine. However, though non Christians may fear death, it is one something that, for the Christian, God has removed the need to fear:

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Heb 2:14-15)

Yet, even of more fear than the actual death is the fear of our eternal destiny: Will I make it to Heaven? Jesus adequately deals with that as well.

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (Joh 14:1-3)

Knowing that we are not going to cease to exist at death or wind up in Hell’s fire should give us great comfort. I wish more Christians would look at death that way. Paul, in Phil 1, said that he really desired to die…so that he could be with the Lord. Many Christians act as if waking up each morning is the best thing that could happen to them. Not quite!

Step three: Ask for help

While I am suggesting that we should not be afraid, I am not naive. We all fall into fear in so many ways. However, Jesus does understand and is not just able to, but willing to, help us.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:15-16)

When we find ourselves suffering from fear, we need to ask for the help that our High Priest is ready to give us. We can then walk through the valley of the shadow of death knowing that God is with us. We then can say with confidence: the Lord is my helper, what can man do to me?

These three steps will help us to reduce our fears and give us greater confidence. In that confidence, we will be more useful for His purposes.

Facing our Goliaths

When Israel went to war with the Philistines in 1 Samuel 17, they gathered on one mountain and geared up for battle. The Philistines, their perpetual antagonist gathered on the other mountain and the battle was to take place in the valley between them. This time however, there would be a twist introduced in the form of Goliath.

Goliath stood apart from the Philistines and challenged Israel to send one man to fight him in a winner take all contest. All the champion from Israel had to do was to defeat Goliath. While it is never a good idea to put one’s fortune at risk in a “winner takes all contest”, this seemed an especially bad idea considering Goliath’s stature. 

And a champion went out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. And he had bronze armor on his legs and a bronze javelin between his shoulders. Now the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his iron spearhead weighed six hundred shekels; and a shield-bearer went before him.  (1Sa 17:4-7)

This man was well armored but more than that, he was very tall. If each cubit is 18 inches, this man stood over 9 feet tall, probably closer to 10 feet.  It is hard to actually picture Goliath as anything other than a serious war machine and to take him on in battle would be an certain suicidal endeavor.

Of course, Israel promptly choose it’s champion and sent him out in order to fight and defeat Goliath, right? Wrong! When Goliath challenged Israel, they cowered in fear:

When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid. (1Sa 17:11)

This should surprise us since Israel had a long history of defeating the Philistines. From their beginning, their whole existence is owed to one amazing victory over another. It started with the defeat of Egypt, progressed through a conquering of the land of Canaan, continued with the  beating back of oppressors during the times of the Judges, and even a recent victory under Saul over the Amalekites. (I Sam 15)

What went wrong? Why the fear and dismay?

There was a subtle change that had recently taken place that might explain that. Really, it might be better to say that it was the final straw in a change that was already underway. Saul had left God and God had let him go.

When Saul disobeyed God by not following through on the utter destruction of the Amalekites and their posessions, God decided to find a new King for Israel. After that day, we read:

And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the LORD regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.  (1Sa 15:35)

God had withdrawn his favor from Saul and the kingdom of Israel, slowly, started to turn into a secular kingdom. It didn’t get far, certainly not as far as those Paul describes in Romans 1, from whom God also turned away, but the process was starting. Their reaction to Goliath’s challenge shows that their focus was on the present reality of this life. The “sword and the spear” was all the assembly knew about. They had forgotten, or at least had lost trust, that God would fight for them.

When you find yourself facing Goliaths in your life and the fear begins to overwhelm you, ask yourself a question: Am I trying to solve this with man’s wisdom and methods, or am I going to rely on God’s ways to help me overcome this fear?

Next blog: David’s response.

Beware, Lion ahead

The temptations of Jesus make for an interesting lesson but a major lesson (often forgotten) is what happened afterward.

Temptations are those enticements to sin and violate God’s will in our life. While many may consider that Satan is the source of these sins in our lives, the Scriptures are clear that sin begins in our heart, within ourselves.  Here are two passages:

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”  (Mar 7:20-23)
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. (Jas 1:14-16)

These two passages indicate that the source of sin comes from our heart. Satan may inflame those desires, but he does not generate them. If temptations are from our own desires, then it follows that if our desires are under control, that temptations will not have as much pull upon us. One of the ways that we remove the temptations is by removing the desire.

Desire, when it comes to temptations, is not simply “wants” but “wants” that are beyond God’s boundaries. The English word is “Lusts”.  One of the things Jesus had working for Him was that He did not desire things that went beyond doing God’s will. This is why Satan’s temptations did not have an effect on Jesus.

But what about after the temptations? Was that it? Satan just gave up and said “I can’t beat you?” No! not at all.

And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. (Luk 4:13)

This is an important point to see. The Devil did not simply give up, he waited for another opportunity.  Examples of such other opportunities may be seen in Peter’s insistence that Jesus should not die (Mt 16:23), when the people wanted to make Him their King, (Jn 6:14-15) and even in the hours leading up to Crucifixion. (Lk 22:41-44)

In our lives, we sometimes are able to overcome desires that God does not approve. However, we must never think that Satan is done with us.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1Pe 5:8)

While we should always be endeavoring to overcome our weaknesses, we should never think that Satan is done trying. If he did not stop tempting Jesus while He was here on the earth, one should not think that we will also fail to endure more temptations.

 

Godliness: not the action only.

From my last post, you may have gathered the idea that godliness is something that cannot be defined by form only. The motive of your action has as much to do with it being godly as the action itself. In other words, where is your heart? As an example, the Pharisees prayed in public seeking the honor of men. This makes an action (prayer), which is something a godly person does, into an action that is not godly but merely a form of godliness.

It seems obvious that Godliness has to do with God. But as such it is solely a “facing God”, “directed towards God” or, “motivated by God” action. “God-ward” is a word I have seen used. You might even say “This action is dedicated to God”.

No one should dedicate something to someone which would disappoint them or with which they would disagree.

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I recently saw an episode of Undercover Boss where the CEO of the flower company named a flower display after one particularly inspirational employee. She was honored.  It was a cheerful arrangement like her. Imagine if he had dedicated a “funeral bouquet’ to her. That would not be pleasing.  Many years ago, I named a calf after a friend of mine and she was not flattered. (Lesson learned!) Likewise, we need to be equally careful what we dedicate to God.

Godliness does not take into account what other people will think, it takes into account what God will think.  David danced before the ark of the Lord as it came to Jerusalem. (God approved, his wife did not.) Abraham picked up and traveled, not knowing where he was going to wind up, just because God told him to. (I wonder what his family thought about that.) Moses left the riches of Egypt in order to serve God and deliver Israel. While the 10 commandments movie may not be accurate in all accounts, I can imagine his Egyptian family trying to talk Moses out of leaving, as they did in the movie.

It doesn’t mean that godly men are perfect men. Abraham lied twice about Sarah being his wife, David committed murder and adultery, Moses got angry without cause and the list of sins committed by our heroes can be multiplied. This is an important point to notice because we sometimes elevate these heroes and then judge ourselves by them, concluding that we cannot live up to their example. Wrong conclusion!

Godliness fits well into this list of qualities that Peter emphasizes because it brings the heart and motivation into the mix. We may have the virtue, knowledge, self-control, and perseverance but so, it seems, did the church at Ephesus. To that church, Jesus said that they still had the problem of having lost their first love: they had become ritualistic. They had the Form but not the heart.

Heart is one thing that makes up godliness. Desire is the other, desire of the right thing. All of the Godly men and women, not only wanted to serve God but had a strong desire for something unique. That unique something was not in this world but in the one that they could not see.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Heb 11:13-16)

Their mind was not set on the things of this world but on the things of the world to come. They could have gone back. Perhaps they could have said, “I want to serve God but please let me do it from where I am at”. Abraham did not do that, Ruth did not do that. Even Jesus left where he was at to serve not just God but us. Paul tells the Colossians:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:1-3)

This seems to be the heart of godly living, a focus that is on God and not on this world. We are pilgrims here and we not only need to live like pilgrims but talk like pilgrims. What we have in this world is nice, and some of us have really nice things, but what we will have in Heaven is so much more. Godliness will get us there.

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