Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Sin of Pleasing People

"Obviously, I'm not trying to be a people pleaser! No, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ's servant." (Galatians 1:10)

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am a recovering "people-pleaser".  Somewhere early in my life, I adopted a great desire to be loved by people.  Now, I know that we all desire to be loved and accepted, but in my world it was necessary for EVERYONE to love me.  For much of my life, I have done whatever it takes to get as many people as possible to love me.  That, of course, meant that I had to compromise my life and my calling to conform to the expectations of others.  The prescription that I have followed over the past dozen years or so is to practice telling myself the biblical truth about who I am and how much God loves me.  The Bible is flooded with promises and reminders about the great love of God.  The more I have come to believe in the love of God, the less I have needed to try to earn the love of people.

So, to my fellow people-pleasers out there this morning, let me encourage you to rest in God's love and acceptance.  As you read the Bible, focus on the many ways that  God expresses His love.  And should you feel the sting of personal criticism or rejection today, rest in the fact that you are the delight of your Father in heaven.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How to Make a Good Decision Everytime

"We can gather our thoughts, but the Lord gives the right answer." (Proverbs 16:1-3)

This has been a tough couple of weeks for several friends of mine.  Tough decisions with seemingly no positive outcomes, have had to be made.  We've all been there.  We've all been required to make a decision when we were not prepared to do so.  After all, sometimes we make bad decisions.  Sometimes, our decisions reap unintended consequences.  Sometimes we have to make a decision without all of the facts.  It can be tough. 

In those times when we are gathering our thoughts, let us remember that the Lord always gives the right answer.  Prayer shouldn't be the last thing we do but, rather, the first thing.  An open Bible and open ears are all that's required to hear from God.  Sit down with pen and paper. Write out the question for which you need direction.  Then prayerfully listen as you read the Word, asking God for His insight.  Write down what you hear God saying from His word.  Write down the promises you see. Write down whom God reveals Himself to be. Write down what He tells you to start and what He tells you to stop. 

I've found that God often addresses character defects in my own heart on the path to wisdom.  Often I've found that there isn't a right decision to make until I've first submitted fully to God's total and complete Lordship.  It's funny how often God's correction of me causes a correction of my circumstances.  Finally, understand that God is not in a hurry.  He's got all of the time in the world.  God's right answer will certainly come in His timing--not yours.

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.” --C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Red Hot Burning Coal

"Then I said, 'My destruction is sealed, for I am a sinful man and a member of a sinful race.'" (Isaiah 6:5)

"Then one of the seraphim flew over to the altar, and he picked up a burning coal with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with it and said, 'See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.'" (Isaiah 6:6-7)
The cure for Isaiah's deserved destruction was a burning coal from the the altar of God.  God is like that! He fixes our failures.  He solves our sin-issue. He delivers us from destruction.  He forgives us with a burning coal.

"I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with the golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters" (Revelation 1:13-15)

John saw Jesus in a glorious vision on the Island of Patmos.  Note Jesus' flaming eyes and burning feet.  God loves us enough, that like He did for Isaiah, He sent a burning coal to deliver us from certain destruction.

Thank you Jesus!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Destruction

"Destruction is certain for those who say that evil is good and good is evil; that dark is light and light is dark; that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter." (Isaiah 5:20)
We live in period of time where our culture is rapidly redefining truth.  It's happening at a staggering pace.  Life is being devalued, marriage is being redefined, virtue is vanishing, and sin is esteemed.  What is the logical outcome? The Bible insists it will be destruction! 

And we see destruction all around us.  We see destruction in Waco with 9 dead and hundreds arrested as bike gangs clash.  We see destruction in Baltimore as crowds riot and loot, burning cars and buildings.  We even see it in Granbury as an unsupervised 3 year old tragically drowns in the lake.  Yesterday, I was shocked to see on Facebook that a man I was acquainted with in Windsor, Colorado, had been shot while riding his bike.  It's just tragic.

"If my people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)
I think it's time to pray . . .

Monday, May 18, 2015

Thrive

"But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God. I trust in God's unfailing love forever and ever. I will praise you forever, O God, for what you have done. I will wait for your mercies in the presence of your people." (Psalm 52:8-9)

Where does the Psalmist say that he is thriving?  Where is he waiting for God's mercies?  He is in the house of God among God's people.  We were not created to live our lives in isolation.  Rather, God has given us families of Christ-followers (churches) where we can do life together.  We can share our hurts, habits, and hangups.  We can also share our hopes and dreams.  Like the Psalmist, we can thrive together in the house God.  We can wait on His mercies together. 

“Jesus' resurrection is the beginning of God's new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord's Prayer is about.”   --N.T. Wright

Thursday, May 14, 2015

How to Change the World

"Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don't take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me again the joy of your salvation and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to sinners, and they will return to you." (Psalm 51:10-13)

Our primary mission as a church is to reach people with the Gospel.  Like David's prayer in Psalm 51:13, we want to teach God's ways to sinners and see them turn to God.  Jesus commands us to, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you." (Matthew 28:19-20) 
As I've prayed over Psalm 51 this morning, I'm wondering if God isn't giving us direction in terms of preparation we can make in our own lives in order to effectively teach sinners and see them return to God.

1. Create in me a clean heart.  We begin with confession. We will have a difficult time teaching people to confess their sins if we don't make it a regular practice.

2. Renew a right spirit within me.  There is nothing sadder than a Christian with a bad attitude.  Who wants to hang around a bunch of bitter people?

3. Do not banish me from your presence.  We are transformed in the presence of God.  Miracles happen in the presence of God.  How do we come into the presence of God? The Bible says, "God inhabits the praise of His people." (Psalm 22:3)

4. Don't take your Holy Spirit from me.  We effectively teach and reach only in the power of the Holy Spirit.

5. Restore to me again the joy of your salvation.  Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and something the world is always looking to find.  Joy is a contentment not based on circumstance.

6. Make me willing to obey you.  How can we possibly teach others to obey God if we haven't learned how to obey God?

7. Then I will teach your ways to sinners.  How will they hear without a preacher?

8. They will return to you.  Here is a promise!  If we will practice the first 7, then we will experience the promise of #8.  There's no better time to get started than right now.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Repentance

"Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin." (Psalm 51:1-2)

And so begins David's prayer of repentance after the prophet Nathan confronts him regarding his sins of adultery and murder.  Psalm 51 gives us a glimpse into the heart of a man who not only messed up in a big way, but also repented in a big way.  Today, let me suggest that we crack open our Bibles to Psalm 51 and pray David's prayer regarding our own sins.  David is called, "a man after God's own heart"--not because he was perfect, but rather because he knew how to repent. 

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession...Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” --Dietrich Bonhoeffer