Saturday, March 29, 2008

James and Pride

Submit yourselves, then to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4.7-10

When James pictures for us the pride that God hates he does so by countering nearly everything that Pride stands for. Pride is submitted to self. It demands that things be done its own way. Pride wants to operate in autonomy, wiht allegiances only to those things that are plainly beneficial and self serving. Pride wants do anything but submit. The proud person must submit if he/she wants to have a serious walk with God.

Pride plays right in to the devils hands. It is easily stirred up into the flames of pride and causes the enemy to 'hang around.' When Satan sees pride it encourages him to linger near you just a little longer in hopes that the will of god will be thwarted and frustrated in your life by the pride that exists in you. It also prohibits your ability to draw near to God, since you have that devilish arrogance and rebellion hanging on your neck.

It leaves you with hand filthy with guilt and rebellion that can't be washed off without scourning off the pride too. And so the proud heart is incapable of genuijne faith. It can only partially believe and wrestles with doubt and double mindedness. It really demands a change of mind toward yourself and your pride in order to be accepted by God. The greek word for repentance (metanoia) means the change of mind toward something. Often we imagine repentance involving tears and sorrow but this is only the outward expression of the inner change. When someone is truly sorry it is because he has changed his view of a particular thing. The pride that once brought a delight is now scorned for what it really is- illinformed self reliance and haughty condescension toward others. Imagine how foolish it is!

And so the Apostle challenges us to Humble ourselves. humility is the beginning point of our healing from sin and self. It deflects the presence of the Lord and removes the stains of our guilt when we recognize that we cannot undo our predicament. God will ultimately humble all men- but those who humble themselves can live out their lives under the blessing of God in this life- instead of in his face.

The Danger of the Foolish Heart

Prov 29.1 A man who remains stiffnecked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed- without remedy

The danger of the foolish heart is that it can and does remain foolish. The only way that one can truly come to the place of enlightenment or wisdom is by receiving the correction for your foolishness. Too often the rebellious heart fails to come to the place of humility to receive truth. Usually, there is a desire in the heart of the unrepentant and rebellious to prove their superiority on some level. For the playground bully it is physical violence; for the rebellious teenage son it is the alternate lifestyle; for the unrepentant and fallen minister it can be slander and blaming others for his own actions.

I have seen, unfortunately, the lives of ministers crumble under the unweildy weight of their own foolishness. Some even blame the church or even their former bosses for their own demise. They are stuck. They cannot push beyond the place of their failure and foolishness because they refuse to admit that they are the fool. So they lie to others, they try desperately to justify themselves and their actions, they push the blame and they continue on in their pride. It is sad that they cannot get beyond their foolishness. They louder they cry for vindication of their foolishness, the more they reveal the rebellion that caused their failures and foolishness. Sad really. They just need to heed the rebuke.

Fortunately for us fools, God desires our hearts to repent. He longs to connect with us- so desperately that he brings people into our path to rebuke us. Now no one likes to be rebuked- but the Lord sends them as an act of mercy. Certainly, we don't want to be rebuked by people who are no better than us. But the story of Balaam in the book of Numbers shows that God is willing to us even a donkey to rebuke us so that we don't persist in our sin.

Heeding the rebuke demands a humility. The casting off of one's own blaming others and the casting off of reinventing history and covering tracks. It demands full dsiclosure of your foolishness. An admission of guilt. This is what makes it so hard to turn from foolishness to walk in the wise way. But the fact that destruction comes to the fool suddenly and surely is an additional incentive. I have seen it happen a number of times. Fools who persisted in their own ways and brought destruction on the lives of their children, their marriage, and their businesses.

As one fool to another- heed the rebuke, gain a heart of wisdom, repentant, and find joy again in your life.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Rejecting the Sop; Recieving Satan

John 13:21
21 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me."

On the night Jesus was betrayed...Jesus was troubled in spirit. He knew it was coming. Presumably he understood this from the Holy Spirit's revelation I can't image what that feels like- to look your betrayor in the eyes, and love them in spite of what he was about to do. We have all been affected by those who turn their back on Jesus- whether by disobeying, denouncing, or denying Him. The results are tragic- and we see their failure and the disloyalty to the Savior. We are filled with distain, with disappointment, we even distance ourselves from these people. Jesus- amazingly sops bread with Judas Iscariot.

The sop was an action of some intimacy. It showed closeness and proximity and honor. Jesus was honoring Judas by giving him the choicest morsel. It is simply breath-taking. The betrayal came after the extended hand of intimacy and friendship. Betrayal always comes when intimacy with the Lord is taken for granted. Betrayal always comes when the Lord's extended hand is slapped, his love spurned, his grace spat upon, and his kindness rejected.

Satan entered him at that moment (v27. It seems the kindness of God leads us either to repentance or, if we harden our heart, it leads us to become the habitation of demons. This is the danger of our hearts getting further and further away from the Lord. This is the danger of my taking his loving kindness for granted, or choosing intimacy with the world over intimacy with him.

Yet Christ's love never changes for the betrayor. And all of us who have betrayed him should be glad that the hand of friendship, the sop of intimacy, the love once spurned can be embraced in a moment. This is truly- Amazing Grace!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Did I say that?

John 13:36-37
36 Simon Peter asked him, "Lord, where are you going?"

Jesus replied, "Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later."

37 Peter asked, "Lord, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you."

Do you think that Peter recognized that he had offered to the Lord more devotion than he could legitimately muster up? Do you think that he knew it as the words came out of his mouth? At any time, before the cock crowed, did it dawn on him that he had bit off more than he could chew? Or did he, like we, think himself able to truly live for God?

I am a failure. Not as a father so much, not even as a pastor, nor as a husband- but as a disciple. I tell God on those "mountain top moments" that I will follow him anywhere! Only to be embarrassed as he points out that we have had this discussion before. On Sunday I can sing "I surrender all" but early Monday morning negotiations start- my surrender looks more like a temporary cease fire.

God, thank you for loving me even though I am unable to love you completely. Help me to recognize the vocalizations of my foolishness as they leave my lips; and be gracious to me, a dullard who knows not his own limitations. Amen

The Sign Post of Love

John 13:33-35
33 "My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

It is tempting, when we disagree with so much that is going on around us to be anti-everything. Certain preachers seem to relish the negativity that they stir up with dogmatic assertions on trivial matters, hard stands on weak points, and simple bullheadedness. After several decades in ministry I have come to this conclusion- you can't yell loud enough to wake those sleeping in conplacency. neither can you argue anyone into the kingdom of God- God has a better way.

It is a life of love. I know, it isn't very mindboggling. It is simply the way Jesus lived. And he calls those who claim followership of him to walk in that way. It is too bad we write it off so easily- this living like Jesus! he wants us to love one another and so demonstate the changed nature of our lives. No demanding first place, no bowing to the demands of ego and flesh, no insistance that we are right- just love. "...All men will know that ou are my disciples..." becuase it is that different than everything in the world!

Love covers sin. Love suffers long. Love never gives up. Love believes the best. Love rejoices in truth. Love is the motivation of faith. Love is the manifestation of faith. Love is the purpose, the source, the grace, the truth. It is what we are called up to.

God for give us the laziness that lets us do it our own way. Rather, these days as we meditate upon your heart of love- that pushed you to the cross- let us contemplate the manner that we may be loving others. Show my hands how to love, my voice how to speak word of love, my eyes to see what love sees and to ignore what love despises.

May we have words that cover sin, build up, are willing to believe the best and suffer alongside. Positive words of love- that so infect our soul- that we incidentally point to Jesus in everything we do!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

scrubbing my filth

John 13.6… Lord, are YOU going to wash MY feet?

I don’t know the future- but Jesus did. And as I am reading John 13 I am profoundly affected by the kind of love that Jesus shows us, demonstrates for us, as an example. It is obvious that Jesus knows that his disciples are going to betray him, to flee from him, to run from any connection to him, and to deny him. He prophecied it to both Judas and Simon Peter. But there in verse 8 Jesus lives a life of love far beyond my ability to know.

Imagine yourself washing feet. Not the “just got out of the tub” kind of feet but the feet of fishermen and tax collectors. The streets of Israel were well traveled by donkeys, goats, sheep and other livestock. Do you know what they do in the road? The germs of the leper, the filth of the livestock, the spittle from the mouths of the vilest of humans are collected in the road and, consequently, on the feet of these disciples. So there is Jesus- washing the dung, and dirt, the germs and filth from the feet of the disciples. He knows full well that they will receive this act of self abasement and love and then… abandon him. ABANDON HIM! And yet he washes, still speaking of the greatness of the Father’s love and still hoping for the revelation to hit pay dirt in the hearts and minds of these disciples.

Faithless friends are a challenge to love. By that I am not speaking of those friendships with those who express no religious allegiance but rather the relationship we have with traitors. Pretty hard to deny the difficulty in that. But there they sit all humbled and needy. And here Jesus kneels… Loving and washing… serving an undeserving humanity. The world isn’t worthy of a love like that… and that is why it is so marvelous!