Friday, May 22, 2009

The Power of Pride

The other day I was driving home following one of those luxury vehicles with a bumper sticker on it of all things. Welcome to the South. The background of the sticker was the American flag and in bold print it read: “The Power of Pride.” No better statement to describe the terrible condition our country is in right now. Pride has taken down more countries than any war. Pride has ruined more companies than any economic downturn. Pride has destroyed more families and marriages than drugs or alcohol. Pride has split more churches and crushed more Christians than any terrorist attack. The fact is that pride kills. Why?

Our country of today is selfish not selfless. We are tuned into the most popular radio station of all time. Running in our heads 24 hours a day each day of the week. It is WIIFM. (What's In It For Me) We see it on our television screens. I want this and I want that. I want the bigger house. I want the bigger car or the better boat. In churches across the nation we hear I want to be moved. I want to be filled by the Spirit. I want a message that tells me how good I am. I want music that moves me. I want a church that meets my needs. We hear people crying out I, I, I.

Look at the word “Pride.” What is the middle letter? Yes, that is right it is “I.” Pride is about self. Pride brought down King David. Pride brought down Solomon. Pride is killing America. Pride is killing you. Now look at the word “Sin.” What is the middle letter? Right again, it is “I.” Now here is the kicker. What is the middle letter in the word “Lucifer?” Go ahead and say it.

In this MTV generation it is hard not to desire a bathroom so big you can play baseball in it. Cruising down main street on a motorcycle that costs more than the average home. We push our children to get better grades so they can go to college so they can get that high paying job. Learn to climb the corporate ladder. Telling them not to care about the people they step-on while on their way up because they have no intention of ever stepping back down. Do it for yourself. If it is going to be then it is up to me is the saying. Look at what the prophet Micah told the leaders of Israel.

I said, “Listen, you leaders of Israel! You are supposed to know right from wrong, but you are the very ones who hate good and love evil. You skin my people alive and tear the flesh from their bones. Yes, you eat my people’s flesh, strip off their skin, and break their bones. You chop them up like meat for the cooking pot. Then you beg the Lord for help in times of trouble! Do you really expect him to answer? After all the evil you have done, he won’t even look at you!” Micah 3:1-4 (NLT)

Are we really much different from the 8th century B.C.? The problems facing Israel nearly 3,000 years ago still face us today. The power of pride is a power not from God.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Forgetting what it was like being lost

Do you remember what it was like when you were lost? I was saved in my early 30's. I refer to those years of darkness as the forgotten years. The time apart from God. The key to reaching the lost is not to forget what it was like and thank God for bringing you through it. This is where your testimony comes into the picture.

Thousands die every hour going straight to hell. You and I were once heading straight for hell too. Now do you remember the things Christians once said or did to you that made you despise them? Yes, many was the truth that at the time we just did not want to listen too. Some actions we still despise to this day.

Innocent as it may seem to fellow brothers and sisters of Christ I still despise those who quote scripture as if they are reading me the Miranda rights. Even the police will take out a card and read from it just to make sure there is no mistakes made. Often that is not the case with fellow Christians. I like what Reverend Billy Graham once said on the matter. When he quotes scripture he first states, “My bible says this.” Guess what, he then produces his bible to show you. If you quote scripture you might just be called on it. Before I was saved when one of those religious people came down on me quoting scripture I would ask them does the bible really say that? Of course I had already noticed that they were not carrying their bible with them. Better to have the sword of God in hand than to trust our little old minds. We make mistakes. It is easy to argue about our words coming out of our mouths. Open your bible and point out the scripture and read it aloud. Hard to argue with God's Word directly. I keep a small pocket bible with me nearly all the time. See Ephesians 6:17 ...the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

When you were lost and you actually entered into a church did you feel a whirlwind of meet and greet? Many young adults and teenagers see this as chaos today. Near the beginning of the church service everything seems to stop and people run around shaking hands with a laser beam to anyone new in the audience. You are trying not to be noticed but deep inside you are crying for help. You smile and now have no idea who is who and if they really wanted to meet you. Perhaps an announcement towards the end of the service that assigned greeters are waiting in the lobby to meet you and to just hand you a gift from our church would be a little more personal. The person who brought you to the church often gets swept away with the crowd.

One thing we usually remember is that Christian person who was so pushy. The moment they looked at me they started condemning me. Never took a moment to get to know me. In fact they never really seemed to even care if I existed. I was just a target they wanted to hit and hit hard. A human punching bag perhaps. In Luke 18 beginning in verse 18 we see Jesus being straight forward but not offensive. Using God's law he lets the person realize for themselves what is wrong in their life and the need for Christ. Jesus did not beat around the bush about it. He used God's law to pierce the hard heart. Getting right to the root of the problem. Like a Doctor. The doctor does not just walk in and tell you when he has scheduled surgery. He first comes in and shows you the evidence on what has been found. After you are fully convinced of the urgency of the matter does the doctor start to talk to you about treatment. Do we really come to the lost with the same reverence of a doctor seeking to cure and save the lost? Many times we wipe off the sweat from our forehead thinking wow I am so glad I just made it being saved. Instead we need to say thank you Jesus now help me lead someone else to you.

Christian actions that intimidated you probably still intimidate others as well. Sometimes later in our Christian life do we realize why they are done. Walking around like a lunatic in my opinion is not very biblical. It might get the message out but to who? Many times street preaching or open air preaching tends to condemn rather than rally for Christ. Perhaps we are approaching it in the wrong way? When was the last time you heard God's Word read aloud on the streets?

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 1 Tim 4:13 (ESV)

For most of us we do not want to look back. I understand that. Remember your past for it is your testimonial from the darkness into the light of Christ Jesus. The lost are looking for what is real. Give it to them.

Be the Best

My father told me long ago, “Son, no matter what you do. Be the best.” Some of you might interpret that phrase to be arrogant or assertive. Your interpretation is incorrect. My father knew I would have failures in my life. To be the best means to strive to become the best at whatever you do. Even if you come up short and still have done your best you have no shame or regrets. If you have done your best what more can be asked of you? Let us look at my favorite verse of scripture.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matt 20:28 (NLT)

Jesus sacrificed His glory to come to us. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords yet became a servant for us all. Not just a servant but the best servant. He is the example for all of us to follow. Yet that is the best we can ever expect from ourselves is to follow. No matter how hard we try. No matter how many things we accomplish. No matter how many others we try to help we still will come up short in God's eyes.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Romans 3:23 (NLT)

Many times we fall into a trap. We believe if we just study our bible hard enough. If we just memorize enough scriptures. If we just pray often enough. If we go to church and try to live a good life God will make things right for us. If we just try to make God happy our marriages will be wonderful, our kids will grow up perfect. Our job will be a utopia. That is not what God's Word tells us.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Gal 5:22-23 (KJV)

As author Chip Ingram wrote: We may not do it consciously, but our expectations make God out to be a cosmic vending machine.

Whatever you do be the best. If you come up short you have nothing to be ashamed about. You did your best. For our salvation our best is still not good enough. Heaven would be a boring place if we were able to enter on our own accomplishments. Think about it. We would have to sit there and listen to others brag about what they did to get into Heaven. We hear enough of that junk (putting it lightly) here on earth.

Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death. Prov 11:4 (KJV)

Being the best means often stepping aside in the service of others. Doing the job no one else wants to do. Taking that extra step knowing in advance that no one is watching or will even care about what you have done. God is watching. Be the best.

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