Pride vs. Humility

Pride

In 1993, as I trained to run in the New York City Marathon, I decided to take a special training workshop being offered by the NYC Road Runners Club, of which I was a member. Since I was training to run a marathon for the first time, I thought this workshop would be a great addition to the training I was doing on my own. Plus, the workshop was being given by Bob Glover, a well-known running coach and author of many best-selling books on running. So, I signed up for the workshop and, for several weeks, made a trip into the city to attend.

At one of the weekly sessions of this marathon training workshop, Bob and his assistants took the class to a block on the upper east side that had a very steep hill. Our assignment was to start at the bottom of the hill and run to the top in order to train for some of the hills we would encounter during the actual marathon. The class was broken up into two groups, those who were faster and more experienced, and those who were a bit slower and less experienced. I was in the latter group. The faster group started the drill and then my group was sent up the hill. And this is when I learned the consequence of pride!

Our group started making its way up the hill when a classmate and I thought that they were too slow for us. Pride kicked in and we decided we could run faster than the rest of the group. So, we picked up speed and made it to the top of the hill ahead of the rest of the group. We felt pretty good about ourselves, proud that we had shown we were faster than the rest. That good feeling didn’t last long though as we faced the consequence of our burst of pride. Bob Glover came over to us and told us that, since we were so fast, we now had to move up to the first group, that group of people who were faster runners than we were. I did not enjoy the rest of that class!

Some forms of pride can be a good thing. It can be self-respect that is reasonable. It can be a confidence in others that is justifiable. In 2 Corinthians 7:4 (NLT), Paul wrote about this kind of pride when he said, “I have the highest confidence in you, and I take great pride in you. You have greatly encouraged me and made me happy despite all our troubles.” But there is another kind of pride that is a bad thing, a sinful type of pride that shows itself as improper or excessive self-esteem. That is the type of pride that the Bible warns us about. It is the type of pride that we need to steer clear of.

In the Bible, there are ten Hebrew words and two Greek words translated as pride that refer to an attitude in which a person is exalting himself. There is also another Greek word that refers to a person who is filled with egotism. These types of pride are sins of attitude, sins of the heart and the spirit. These are the types of pride that God hates. In James 4:6, we are told that God is opposed to the proud. In fact, God detests the proud and, as Proverbs 16:5 tells us, the proud will be punished. Jesus taught that the person who exalts himself, the prideful person, will be humbled (Matthew 23:12). I certainly felt humbled that day in my marathon workshop!

As I learned, pride comes with consequences. In Proverbs 16:18 (NLT), we read that “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” Clearly, pride is something to avoid at all costs. Instead, we must choose humility. We must humble ourselves, putting the needs of others ahead of our own. While there are consequences to pride, humility brings blessing. God opposes the proud, but He exalts the humble (Matthew 23:12) and gives them grace (James 4:6). When we, in humility, submit ourselves to God, He gives us the ability to resist the devil (James 4:7). And God’s Word promises that when we humble ourselves before Him, He will exalt us (James 4:10).

What is Man?

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What is man that You take thought of him, 
And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than God, 
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
(Psalm 8:4–5)

In Psalm 8, verses 1-3, David starts off by talking about the majesty and splendor of God, then reflects upon all that God has created. He thinks about the incredible work of God’s hands, which includes the heavens, the moon, and the stars. And then, David poses a very good question when he asks, “what is so important about man that God should think so much of him?” God created everything, the earth, the sun, the moon, the entire solar system. He created the mountains, the valleys, the trees, and the amazing variety of the plant-life we see around us. He created the ponds, the lakes, the rivers, and the mighty oceans. He created the birds, the fish, and the rest of the incredibly diverse creatures that walk the earth. So, David asks, why is man so special?

David ponders this same thought in Psalm 144:3-4, when he says, “O LORD, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that You think of him? Man is like a mere breath; His days are like a passing shadow.” As I said before, it’s a very good question. Why is man so special to God? Before I looked for the answer to that question, as I read Psalm 144:4, I was struck by one phrase, “Man is like a mere breath.” The Hebrew word translated as “breath” here is the same word that is translated as “vanity” or “meaningless” in Ecclesiastes 1:2. In comparison to God, in comparison to the vastness and wonder of God’s creation, what is man? Is man really meaningless? Is man mere breath?

Just like the rest of the creatures that roam the earth, man was created from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7,19). But, there was something different in the way that God created man, something that set man apart from the rest of creation. First, when creating man, God said, “Let Us make man in Our image.” So, unlike all the rest of creation, when man and woman were created, they were created in the image of the Creator, in the image of God. Creation as a whole reflects God’s creativity, the incredible workmanship of His hands. But man and woman reflect God Himself.

When God created everything else we see around us, He said, “Let there be…” and then those things were created. But when God created man from the dust of the earth, He did something He had not done with any other creature. He breathed His breath, the breath of life, into man, who then became a living being (Genesis 2:7). Man’s breath, our breath, comes from God. So, the next thing that sets man apart from the rest of creation is that man has the breath of God in his lungs.

After creating man and woman, God blessed them, commanded them to be fruitful and multiply, and gave them dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28). So, clearly, in God’s eyes, man is far from meaningless, far from “mere breath.” Man is created in His image, has God’s breath in his lungs, and has been given dominion over the rest of creation. And, since man is so special in God’s eyes, since God has set man apart from the rest of creation, man’s purpose is to give Him glory. When we think about how special we are to Him, when we stop to consider how He has blessed us, how can we not desire to do just that, to give Him the worship and the glory that He deserves?

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Always Let the Bible be Your Guide

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One of my absolute favorite Disney animated films is Pinocchio. You probably know the story. An old wood-carver named Geppetto, who has no children, carves a wooden puppet that he names Pinocchio. That night, in response to Geppetto’s wish upon a star, the Blue Fairy appears and brings Pinocchio to life. She then promises Pinocchio that he can become a real boy if he proves himself brave, true, and unselfish, and she appoints a cricket named Jiminy to be Pinocchio’s conscience since, as a wooden puppet, he doesn’t have one of his own. In the song, “Give a Little Whistle,” Jiminy Cricket tells Pinocchio that whenever he finds himself in a spot where he doesn’t know right from wrong, all he needs to do is whistle and let his “conscience” be his guide. Of course, Pinocchio doesn’t listen to his “conscience” and throughout the story ends up in one predicament after another.

We all have times in our lives when we need to make decisions, to choose the right actions versus the wrong actions. For a believer, those decisions are particularly important as we strive to live righteously, to become more like Christ. When faced with the need to differentiate between right and wrong, we can use human reason. Now, when it comes to the affairs of our everyday life – what to eat, what to wear – there is nothing wrong with using our human reason. But we all make mistakes, so human reason is not the best authority in determining right from wrong.

When choosing between right and wrong, we can also turn to our human conscience. The conscience is an internal voice that basically is our right and wrong indicator. It weighs the situation and steers us one way or the other. The problem is that, because of sin, our conscience has been damaged. We can’t rely on it to steer us in the right direction. We can’t rely on it to make the correct choice between right and wrong. Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV) tells us that “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” The Hebrew word translated as heart refers to a person’s inner life. That includes the will, thoughts, motivations, feelings, and, yes, the conscience. Our conscience is not the best authority in determining right from wrong.

So, where should we turn when we need to make decisions, to determine right from wrong? We should turn to Scripture, to God’s Word, the Bible. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that Scripture is inspired by God. It is useful for teaching us the truth, what is right, and to show us what is wrong and correct us when we are leaning toward what is wrong. And this is true, not just of some Scripture but ALL of it. When it comes to matters of faith and conduct, the Bible should be our ultimate authority in life. Through the Scriptures, God has revealed to us all that we need to believe.  And, how we live our lives, the standards that we follow as we strive to live righteously, must be dictated by the Scriptures.

Unlike human reason or human conscience, God’s Word is infallible, which means it is incapable of error. And God’s Word is inerrant, which means it does not contain any error. God’s Word is infallible and inerrant because God Himself is perfect. And so, to paraphrase Jiminy Cricket, as we go through life and need to determine right from wrong, we must always let the Bible be our guide.

Our Plans vs. God’s Plans

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In the 90’s, I began writing stories for children. I dreamed of one day being a published author, seeing my children’s books on the shelves of Barnes & Noble or on Amazon.com. When shoulder surgery forced to give up my jobs as a personal trainer and aquatic fitness professional, I found myself with plenty of time to write. I wrote some stories and submitted them to publishers, but they were not accepted for publication. But it was still my dream to be a published author, so I kept at it until the day that I felt God revealing that He had different plans for me.

I had been journaling for some months when I felt that God was telling me to create a blog and share the thoughts He was giving me with others. I created this blog, A Worshiper’s Journal, and began to share those thoughts with all who come across the site. After writing the blog for a while, I began to think, “Maybe my dream to be published is not in the children’s book genre. Maybe it’s in writing devotional books to encourage other believers.” I began looking more deeply into God’s Word and started to feel that I needed to study it more. And that’s when I learned where my dreams, my plans, differed from God’s. His plan was not for me to be a published writer, at least not right now. His plan is for me to channel my talents and abilities into ministry. And so, I began studying for ministry.

Sometimes, our plans and God’s plans for our lives can be very different. Look at David. When David was settled in his palace and God had given him rest from his enemies, David was troubled by the fact that he lived in a house of cedar, but God’s house, the place in which the ark of God resided, was a tent (2 Samuel 7:1-2). David’s plan was to build a house of cedar for God. So David brought the idea to Nathan the prophet, who agreed with it and told David that he should do what he planned, since God was with him (2 Samuel 7:3).

But that night, God spoke to Nathan and revealed that it was not His will for David to build Him a house. In fact, God pointed out that He had never asked for a house to be built for Him. God had other plans for David. David would continue to shepherd God’s people, setting a godly example for them, and his kingdom would endure forever before God. David’s son, Solomon, would build a house for God, a temple (2 Samuel 7:8-16). And David’s kingdom would reign forever because one day, from the house of David, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would be born.

When God’s plans for our lives don’t match up with our own plans, we may feel disappointment as David surely did when he was told that he would not build a house for God. But, God’s plans are sure to be better and greater than any plans that we can make on our own. And we can be sure that, as it says in Jeremiah 29:11, the plans that God has for us will never harm us. They will prosper us. They will give us a hope and a future beyond that which we could ever plan or dream for ourselves.

Gifts

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Have you ever received a gift you didn’t need or didn’t like and then given that gift to someone else? Perhaps it was a book that you already had or a sweater that just wasn’t your style. Or maybe it was a gift that you were given that got put away in a closet somewhere and was never used. In today’s world, re-gifting has become more and more common. But is re-gifting okay? Depends on whom you ask. According to the Emily Post Institute, it’s not really okay to re-gift but, if you do, it’s important to ensure that no one feels hurt, either the person who gave you the gift or the person receiving it from you.  You need to ask yourself two questions. First of all, would the person who gave you the gift mind that you were giving it to someone else? And second, what would happen if the original giver and the new recipient knew each other, and realized that you’d re-gifted a gift from one to the other? Awkward!

The gifts that we receive as followers of Christ are gifts that are not only okay to re-gift, they are actually meant to be “re-gifted.” The greatest gift we have received is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news of salvation that comes from believing He died ad rose from the dead to pay for our sins. That is a gift that we are required to re-gift by sharing it with others. Through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us when we give our lives to Jesus, we are to share that gift to those around us, so that they may receive the same salvation that we have been given by God’s grace.

But there are also other gifts that we receive as followers of Christ, spiritual gifts that are not given to us just for our own benefit. They are gifts that we are given to benefit the body of Christ, the church. These gifts are given to us by the Holy Spirit so that we can serve God by sharing our gifts with others. If we have been given the gift of prophecy, then we should prophesy. If we have been given the gift of serving others, then we should serve. If teaching is our gift, then we should teach. If we have been blessed with the gift of encouraging others, then we should be encouragers. If giving is our gift, we should give generously. If our gift is leading, we should lead responsibly. And if our gift is kindness, we should gladly share that gift with others. (Romans 12:6-8)

We have all been given some or all of these gifts, and they are meant to be used, to be shared, or re-gifted, if you will. And, most importantly, we should use and share our gifts with a sincere love for one another.

It’s What’s Inside That Counts

One of the world’s largest and most recognizable producers of microprocessors for computers is the Intel Corporation. In the late 1980’s, Intel’s market share was suffering due to competitors such as Advanced Micro Devices and Zilog, who had begun selling their less expensive microprocessors to computer manufacturers. Computer manufacturers knew that if they used cheaper processors, they could produce cheaper computers, resulting in a higher share of the consumer market. Intel knew that their processors, while more expensive than those of the competitors, were also of a higher quality, and so, to boost public loyalty and increase market share, they came up with the Intel Inside campaign. If you’ve ever purchased a desktop PC or a laptop, chances are you’ve seen an “Intel Inside” sticker on it. That tells you that what’s inside your computer is of high quality. After all, when it comes to computers, it’s what’s inside that counts.

For believers, it’s also true that it’s what’s inside that counts, especially in the eyes of God. When Samuel went to Bethlehem to seek the man whom God had chosen to replace Saul as king of Israel, the first man he saw was Eliab, the oldest son of Jesse. Eliab was obviously of great stature and had an impressive appearance, because the first thought that entered Samuel’s head was, surely this is the man whom the Lord has anointed! Samuel was looking at the outward appearance of Eliab as the evidence that this was the man God had chosen. But, God told Samuel not to look at the outside, at the man’s appearance or stature. Eliab was not the one God had chosen. God doesn’t look at what’s on the outside, but rather at what’s inside. He looks at the heart. Samuel then looked at the rest of Jesse’s sons and God rejected all of them until Samuel came to Jesse’s youngest son, David (1 Samuel 16:4-12). David was anointed as the next king of Israel because God saw what was inside of David, the heart of a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22).

In Matthew 23:25-28 (NIV), when Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, He said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” In the eyes of men, the Pharisees appeared to be righteous and godly, but Jesus knew what was inside, what was in their hearts. And it is clear that what was inside, what really counted, was displeasing to God.

God sees the heart. He knows what is inside of us. And what God desires from us is to be like David, to be people after His own heart. God wants us to live righteously, He wants us to treat others with love and respect, He wants us to serve Him and to worship Him. But, all of that doesn’t matter if our hearts are not aligned to His. It’s what’s inside that counts!

Scripture quotations marked NIV were taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

What Are You Afraid Of?

Fear

Years ago, I was on a weekend trip with a group of friends at a place called Greenwood Lake.  One night, a few of us decided to go to a drive-in movie. The movie playing was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Not exactly an edifying movie, but that’s what was playing (and I didn’t really know the Lord yet) so we went to see it. Later that night, when we were back at the house where we were staying, the entire group was engaged in a lively game of Charades when, all of a sudden, we heard the sound of a chainsaw start outside the house. The reactions of the group varied from crying, running into the bathroom and locking the door, and even laughing. My reaction? I sat there, paralyzed with fear, muttering, “Oh, God, oh, God…”

Fear is an emotion that is aroused by impending danger, evil, or pain. It can exist whether the threat is real or it lies in the imagination of the person experiencing the fear. All of us likely have experienced fear at some time in our lives. Our fear may be caused by the unknown, by past experience, or it may just be a phobia of some sort, such as fear of a certain type of animal or fear of the dark. Fear can be crippling. It can cause physical illness. And it can prevent us from doing things that we need to do. For those of us who are followers of Christ, fear can keep us from stepping into the plans God has for us, the calling He has on our lives. So, what does the Bible say about fear?

When the Israelites were hesitant to cross over to the Promised Land in fear of the enemies who resided there, Moses reminded them that God was with them, that He would go before them, that He would not fail them or forsake them. He told them that God would deliver their enemies into their hands (Deuteronomy 31:5-6). In Deuteronomy 31:8 (NASB), Moses said, “The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” This is just one instance where God reminded His people that, with Him beside them, they should not be afraid.

Jesus taught that we, His flock, should not be afraid. Why? Because our Father in heaven has chosen to give us His kingdom as an inheritance (Luke 12:32). Rather than fear, rather than worry, Jesus taught that we should seek God’s kingdom first. When we do, the things we worry about, the things we need but are afraid we can’t obtain, will be given to us (Luke 12:29-31). In 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT), Paul wrote, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” God has given us His Spirit, and it is through His Spirit that we are able to overcome our fears. And when we are able to overcome our fears, we can step into all that God has for us and serve Him without hesitation.

Oh, by the way, you may be wondering about what exactly happened in my chainsaw experience. Earlier that day, we had met a guy who was from Queens, NY, where all of us were from and told him that we were going to see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that night. As a joke, he and his friends decided to come by the house where we were staying and scare us by starting up that chainsaw. So, our fears were unfounded but, man, did they feel real!

God does not want us to be afraid. We need to remember the words of Romans 8:31 (NLT): “If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”

So, what are you afraid of?

Scripture quotations marked NASB are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Use the Force

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“Use the Force, Luke!”

In Star Wars, Episode IV – A New Hope, there is a climactic scene in which Luke Skywalker is flying his X-Wing fighter through the trenches on the evil Empire’s weapon of mass destruction called the Death Star. Luke’s mission is to fire a missile into a very small hole in order to destroy the Death Star. As Luke nears the target, he is setting his targeting computer to lock into the target when he hears the voice of his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, say, “Use the force, Luke!” Luke heeds Obi-Wan’s advice, shuts off the computer, and instead relies on the Force, the energy field that gives a Jedi his power. When he relies on the Force to guide him, Luke manages to make a direct hit, and the Death Star is obliterated.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we have a “Force” that is with us to help us along our spiritual walk. That “Force” is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, the triune Godhead, is the personal and powerful presence of God, who is present in the lives of believers. Jesus promised that when He left this world to take His place at the right hand of the Father, He would send the Holy Spirit as a Helper to abide in the lives and hearts of those who believe (John 14:16-17). As believers, we have a mission to testify about Jesus to the world. Jesus knew that, by our own strength and our own power, we could not accomplish that mission. He knew we needed a Helper, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth (John 15:26-27).

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was raised from the dead after having been crucified. After Jesus ascended into heaven, His disciples were all gathered in one place when the day of Pentecost came. On that day, a great spiritual force fell upon them. That force was the Holy Spirit. There was a sound like a rushing wind that filled the place they were in, and tongues of fire came and rested on each of them. As the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, they began to speak in other tongues, in other languages that none of them had known before (Acts 2:1-6). And through the power of the Holy Spirit, the disciples went on to spread the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the world.

The power of the Holy Spirit is there for all believers. When we believe that Jesus is Lord, when we choose to turn from our sin and follow Him, the same, “Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead,” lives in each one of us. And just as, through the power of the Spirit, Jesus rose from the dead, so that Spirit living within us gives life to our mortal bodies (Romans 8:11). The Holy Spirit is there to guide us, to comfort us, and to teach us. The Holy Spirit helps to shape us into the image of God, to shed the sinful life of the old self and put on the new self so that we may represent Jesus as we testify to the world about Him.

Finally, when we are in the midst of spiritual battles, when the enemy is trying to destroy us by weakening our faith, the Holy Spirit is there to guide us in battle. When we try to fight those battles on our own, we cannot win. Luke Skywalker won his battle against the Empire by relying on the Force. In our battles, when we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, we will also see victory. When Luke relied on the Force, Darth Vader sensing the power of the Force, said, “The Force is strong in this one.” We must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit as we spread the Gospel and fight our spiritual battles. When we do, our enemy will say, “The power of the Holy Spirit is strong in this one.”

Train to Be Godly

Toads can cause warts… Don’t go outside with wet hair or you’ll catch a cold… Chicken soup will cure your cold… Feed a cold, starve a fever… 

Old wives’ tales. We’ve all heard them. Some are totally false. Toads don’t cause warts; a virus does and there’s no scientific evidence that going outside with wet hair will cause you to catch a cold. Some old wives’ tales do have an element of truth, like eating chicken soup to help get rid of a cold. Oh, and by the way, starving a fever is not a good idea. When you’re sick, it’s always best to eat a little something — like that chicken soup!

In his first letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul wrote, “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly (1 Timothy 4:7, NIV).” As followers of Jesus Christ, we should have nothing to do with teaching that is false — those old wives’ tales or with godless myths. Instead, we are to train ourselves to be godly. Why? In the next verse, Paul answers that question. He says that physical training has some value, but training for godliness has value for all things. And, its value is not just for the present life, but also for the life to come, for eternity (1 Timothy 4:8). Physical training will make us physically fit, but training for godliness will make us not only spiritually fit, but also people who reflect the image of God.

So, how do we train to be godly? In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul points out that an athlete prepares by exercising self-control. While in training, he controls his body, steering clear of the wrong foods, avoiding over-training, and making sure to get the proper amount of rest. In spiritual training, we, as followers of Christ, must also exercise self-control, making our bodies our servants and not our masters and steering clear of sin in our lives.

In order to condition his body, an athlete will participate in a variety of exercises, such as strength training, aerobic exercise, and flexibility exercises. In training for godliness, we should also use a variety of “exercises,” such as prayer, self-examination, fellowship, service, and sacrifice. When we do these things, the Holy Spirit helps us to become more godly people.

Finally, in physical training, an athlete may use various types of equipment to help him to attain the conditioning he needs to compete. He may use free weights, weight machines, or cardio equipment such as treadmills or exercise bikes. As we train to be the godly people we are called to be, perhaps the most important piece of “equipment” we need to use is the Bible, the living Word of God. 1 Timothy 4:7 tells us to steer clear of false teaching (godless myths and old wives’ tales). The best way to do that is to spend time seeking the truth, which is found in God’s Word.

Physical training is not easy. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of discipline. The same is true for spiritual training for godliness. It takes effort and discipline to reflect the image of God. In 1 Timothy 4:10, Paul says that we labor and strive and we do so with good reason. We labor and strive because we “put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”

 

 

Unless the Lord Builds the House

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Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. (Psalm 127:1, NIV)

In two days, our nation will celebrate the 242nd anniversary of its existence, the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. On July 4, 1776, representatives of each of the 13 colonies voted unanimously to adopt the resolution that declared our independence from the rule of Great Britain. And, on that day, the 13 colonies became the 13 states of the United States of America. One of the signers of the Declaration, representing the colony of Pennsylvania, was Benjamin Franklin.

In 1787, after the war for our independence had been fought and our nation was putting together the Constitution of the United States of America, Franklin, understanding the futility of doing such a work without the help of God, delivered a speech to the Constitutional Convention. In that speech, he appealed to President George Washington and the other members of the Convention to recognize the need for prayer, for seeking the help of God in such an important undertaking.

Franklin reminded those assembled of the fact that throughout the war against Great Britain, the Congress, aware of the dangers that we faced, made it a daily practice to seek Divine Protection. He pointed out that not only did God hear those prayers, but also that He graciously answered them. Franklin noted that it was to the providence of God that they owed the opportunity to engage in developing a constitution that would establish the laws of our country. Franklin then asked, “And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance?”

Franklin understood the truth of God’s Word found in Psalm 127:1, which says that building a house (or a country) without God is useless; it is an exercise in futility. Franklin went on to say, “I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that ‘except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.'”

Franklin believed this and demonstrated his belief that moving ahead without God’s help would be detrimental to the future of the United States of America, saying, “We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a bye word down to future age. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.”

Just as Benjamin Franklin knew that we needed God to build a nation, we need to understand that we need God to build our lives. We need to seek His help in all that we do. Our lives must be built upon the rock, that is, listening to and following the words of Jesus Christ. If we don’t seek God’s help, if we don’t build our lives on the rock, then we are like the man who builds his house on sand. When the storms of life come, the house built on sand will be destroyed. But when we build our lives on the rock, when we hear and follow the words of Jesus, allowing Him to build our lives, then we can withstand the storms of life (Matthew 7:24-27). And, with God as the builder, guiding our lives each step of the way, we can be sure that our house is not being built in vain.

Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™

God is Fighting for Us

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The Israelites had been under the oppression of the Midianites for seven years when God instructed Gideon to go and deliver Israel from the hands of Midian. But when the time came for Gideon and the army of Israel to go up against Midian, God told Gideon that his numbers were too great to go to battle against the Midianites because, when they were victorious, the Israelites would boast that they had overcome through their own strength. So God ordered Gideon to tell the Israelites that any who were afraid should depart. When Gideon did so, 22,000 left, leaving 10,000. But God then said that the 10,000 were still too many and instructed Gideon to bring them to the water to drink. Gideon was told to send home those who cupped their hands to drink and keep those who lapped the water like a dog. Gideon then had 300 men left to face not just the Midianites, but the Amalekites, and all the sons of the east. The result? God confused the oppressors of the Israelites. They were routed and peace reigned for 40 years. (Judges 6 and 7) Gideon and the Israelites had victory because God was fighting for them.

As believers today, we have an enemy who prowls like a roaring lion, seeking to oppress us, seeking to destroy our peace and fill our hearts with doubt and with fear (1 Peter 5:8). He will use whatever means he can to take us down and to pull us away from our faith in the one true God. The forces of evil will come against us and, at times, it may seem that, just as Gideon and his 300 men were greatly outnumbered, so are we. But, just as God came through for Gideon and Israel, He will come through for us. The fight that we fight against this enemy is a spiritual battle. God has given us the defensive and offensive equipment that we need to fight this battle. He has provided us with His full armor, the belt of truth, the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit, which is His Word (Ephesians 6:13-17). With these things in place, we are well equipped to fight the spiritual battles in our lives. But perhaps the most important thing we have to help us in these battles is the knowledge that we have God on our side.

God fights for us. When we are in the midst of a spiritual battle, we need to remember this. We need to remember the words of 2 Chronicles 20:15, the words of God spoken through a Levite named Jahaziel: “This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” The battle is God’s because He fights for His people, for those who put their faith and trust in Him. With God on our side, there is nothing we need to fear because when we have God fighting for us, there is nothing and no one who can stand against us (Romans 8:31). God is our refuge, and when we have God in our lives, no evil will conquer us. He is there to help us and will even order His angels to protect us (Psalm 91:9-11). So, in the midst of a spiritual battle, suit up with God’s armor and remember that He is right there with you to give you victory over the enemy who seeks to oppress you.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Embrace the Light

the light

If you’ve ever lived in an apartment above a store (I have!), it is very likely that you have encountered that dreaded and reviled pest – the cockroach. And if you’ve ever encountered cockroaches, you know that they tend to go about their business in the dark and will scatter when a light is turned on. Cockroaches have an aversion to light. Years of experience has taught them to fear the light, knowing that, in the light, they are exposed and become highly vulnerable to predators or to a size 10 shoe.

Evil is like a cockroach. It operates in the darkness and those who practice evil love the darkness, and hate the light. In the third chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus is speaking to a Pharisee named Nicodemus. In verses 19 and 20, Jesus tells Nicodemus that “the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” The Light that Jesus is referring to is Himself. Jesus is the Light of the world, and those who prefer holding on to the darkness of sin are those who reject Him or oppose Him. They know that the Light exposes their sin to the world and so they steer clear of the light, just as cockroaches scatter when a light is turned on.

Those who choose to live by the truth of God’s Word, who choose to turn away from sin and embrace the Light are those whom Jesus speaks of in John 3:16. They are the ones who, by believing in Jesus, will receive the gift of God’s love, eternal life. God’s motive in sending Jesus, the Light, into the darkness of this fallen world was love. John 3:17 tells us that God sent Jesus into the world not to condemn it, but to save it. God loves each and every one of us and His desire is to see all of us receive the salvation that He gives through Jesus. God sent the Light. We need to turn from the darkness of sin and embrace the Light.

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