Selfishness or Obedience

Obeying the rules and submitting to the authority of others is very difficult. Many times we do not like the people who have authority and even worse we may not respect them as individuals. For children and teens this is even more difficult because they lack the life experience to understand why the rules are in place. As parents disciplining them to obey is a painful process that can easily make the parent out to be the “bad guy” in the situation. As a parent there have been times when my wife and I had to correct and address bad behavior from one of the children at bed time. There are tears and yelling, but they went to bed. As parents we feel bad because the guilt sets in that the child did not go to sleep happy and filled with love. This guilt and perspective is wrong. That child was loved so much that we were willing to correct them in spite of the pain for both of us. I have found that the next morning the painful part of tears and prideful resistance of the correction is forgotten and there is peace and a renewed embrace and understanding of right and wrong.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11 ESV

I have found that God deals with me in much the same way. My heart is rebellious and there are always lusts of the flesh that capture my interests. These lusts for food and pleasure in my heart are part of prideful selfishness to obtain anything I want with no concern for the impact to others. A child that is screaming “me, me, me” cares only for his own needs. A child that grows up to be an adult that has never been disciplined against the selfish desires will be an adult that has no problem cheating and stealing to get what they want out of life.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 ESV

God’s word is vocal on how we are to correct our children and how we are to accept correction from the authorities over us. Everyone has authority that they submit willingly or unwillingly. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians quotes from the Ten Commandments and highlights an interesting fact about the command to honor your parents.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Ephesians 6:1-3 ESV

Paul calls out the link between obedient children and a society that is well organized and long lasting. Paul in another letter lumps disobeying parents in with the worst of the worst things people do.

They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:29-32 ESV

A child trained to obey earthly parents is an adult that will obey a heavenly father. Jesus is calling us to follow him and the authority he has from the Father. Jesus is calling you…

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15 ESV

The Family Life of Jesus

Jesus was once a child and the Bible communicates two fundamental truths about his childhood that we as children and parents would do well to carry out in our own families.

First as parents it is our job to raise our children in a home where God is a priority. For Joseph and Mary it is clear that they raised up Jesus in a family that put priority on the religious requirements of their day and time. As first born in their family they dedicated Jesus to God according to the Law that is required for them as Israelites. While this is just one example of a religious ceremony it is assumed that this lifestyle is part of who they are as a family. I expect that they also spent time as a family talking about God, and living a life that God would want from them.

And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Luke 2:22-24 ESV

Second as children it is important that we honor our parents and submit to their authority when we are young. When Jesus was twelve his parents took him to Jerusalem for Passover and then started to return home from the festival without him. Once they realized that he was missing they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. When they found him he was in the Temple learning and amazing others with his knowledge. Yet even in this Jesus kept in mind God’s command to obey parents and submit to the order that God ordained. Jesus returned home to continue to fullfill his role as a child even if he might have been ready to be out on his own. The result is that Jesus in childhood continues to gain wisdom and favor with those in the community. Children that obey parents and respectfully listen to adults are a joy and benefit to the community at large.

And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:51-52 ESV

What are some additional things we can take away from the family that Jesus grew up in? I am sure based on what we know about this family that they would have taken the Law of Moses seriously. When I think of the Law of Moses I think of the 10 commandments. There are two types of commands in the 10 commandments. Commands 1-4 are commands that deal with the relationship between man and God like not using God’s name as a profanity or a curse. The second set of commands 5-10 are commands that deal with the relationship between man and man. Do not steal, or kill are famous examples. However the first command in the set that deals with our relationship with others is this…

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12 ESV

God starts with a command of asking us to Honor our parents and give them respect deserved or not. God also gives a promise with this command that if we do this our days in the land we are living might be long. None of the other commands related to our relationship with other people comes with a promise like this. The family unit, the relationship within the family and the children honoring their parents is foundational to peace and longevity in your life.

Proverbs has wisdom about how to live an earthly life that honors God and those around you. In this wisdom it is common to find advice from adult to child about how to approach life.

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. Proverbs 1:8-10 ESV

There is also wisdom that talks about the foolishness and haste of youth who think they know better than adults that have lived a few more seasons. God’s wisdom and knowledge is here for those that will pause to listen, but youth that did not respect and honor their parents will grow up to be adults that will not respect or honor God their creator. I think about my own youthfulness and my desire to get out in the world to make a name for myself. I was so foolish and let me just put it this way… the me of now thinks the me of 20 years ago was an idiot. Don’t blame God or parents for the stupid things you did in your youth.

Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way. When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord. Proverbs 19:2-3 ESV

So children pause, look, and submit to authorities in your life. There will be a time for you to make your own way. Lord willing you will have learn something valuable from those who have gone before you. Parents, you have a great responsibility and stewardship in the children that God has blessed you with. Here is one final thing that the parents of Jesus would have had on their mind as they raised Jesus and his brothers and sisters…

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV

Parents, are you talking about God as a family at home? Are you talking about God in the car when traveling? Are you talking about God in the morning before rushing off for the day? Moses said to teach them diligently. Are you diligent about the things of God in your family? Moses said to write the words of God on the walls of your house. Do you decorate your home with scripture? In my home office over my desk is a framed picture that has the words of Joshua 24:15 “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord”. Have you made Jesus a central focus of your life and family?

You do not have because…

The book of James has some harsh words about who we really are and how it impacts our relationship with God. The wonderful part with his harsh plain-spokenness is that it is clear to the one who wants to draw near to God what the path forward looks like. James clearly states what God is looking for. This is a walkthrough of James 4:1-8. Take time to read and meditate on what James the brother of Jesus has to say. God is available and He is near for those who are ready to humble themselves.

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. James 1:1-2 ESV

James opens with the point that our passions are at war with the new person we should be in Christ. We fight amongst ourselves. We hate our brothers. We want what others have and plot to take it from them. Then James points directly at such evil children and reminds us that we do not have because we did not ask.

So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. Romans 9:16 ESV

We do not ask because we live life apart from God. Do we turn to him and ask him to provide for our needs? Do we turn to him and ask him to provide for the desires in our heart? Do we turn to him and ask him to put Godly passions in the foundation of our soul? No we don’t, we life live like the atheists striving and working in our own will as if God our creator did not even exist.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. James 4:3-4 ESV

Then there are those of you who will say “I prayed and asked for a Job and God has not answered” or I asked for a perfect girlfriend or car, or whatever and God did not provide. Where is the answered prayer that God promised? This is hard to answer because only you know in your heart what God has to say to you. However I will give a few possibilities. First it is out of wrong motives that you ask. If you pray for a 100 score on a test for school and you do not receive it then I must ask why you prayed for the 100? What was your motive? Did you want the 100 because you wanted to boast to your friends at how smart you are? Did you want the 100 because you needed it to pass because you neglected the responsibilities of study? What obligation does God have to answer such a prayer? Is he simply someone that grants wishes for your own selfishness? Second you ask God for things that will allow you to continue your selfish life filling the passions of this world and not focusing on the eternal things that are important to God. Third, what if God’s answer for now is “No” to that job? Has he not provided for your daily needs? Has he not been faithful in this time without steady income? Is there not joy to be found in trusting him daily? What if he has a season of life where you must truly trust him for your daily bread? I have been there for a season and God can restore what is taken away and to him I give the credit and appreciate what I have now even more.

And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Luke 12:29-31 ESV

James calls it adulterous that we seek to fill our own passions. God knows what you need and he has promised to provide that. Has he not been faithful? Jesus wants for us to seek after him, his kingdom. He wants you to put your trust in Him. However God never promised to make us rich in material things. What good are those material things anyway? Will they aid in your future eternal destiny? Doubtful.

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4 ESV

James is as straight forward as he can be here. If you love the things of this world more than God, if you choose the pleasures of this world over the life Christ is calling you to live then you choose to be an enemy with God. It is that simple.

Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:5-8 ESV

Do you love Christ? Do you love God and what he has done to create you, save you, and provide for you in eternity? We are adulterous in God’s eyes because he will not accept our cheating on him with the world. James makes it perfectly clear that if your ambitions and your plans are consumed with the things of this world you are his enemy. God’s ambitions and plans do not involve this world. This world is temporary just like our mortal bodies. But James has good news for us double-minded sinners. Submit to God, and humble ourselves to God because through Jesus he gives more grace. Lastly if you do not already know the joy of salvation in Jesus then today is the day to give up the selfish ambition and seek what life Christ has for you. All that is needed to get started is to speak to Jesus with honest words admitting that you need him. Eternity is at stake.

How we Burn up our Life

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They are just words I did not mean anything by it. Words are just that words. No actions have taken place and talk is just talk. The Bible however disagrees and claims that your entire life can be set on fire just by words spoken from your mouth.

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. James 3:5-6 NIV

What comes out of your mouth is what is in your heart and makes you who you are at your very core. Before actions can take place words betray who you are. Paul in his letter to the Romans describes what it looks like to be fully consumed by a life set on fire that starts simply by words spoken.

They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:30-32 ESV

Lies, gossip, encouragement to do evil things, and boasting all start as just words. God does not judge solely on our actions. For example I have never killed anyone so I can claim that I have kept the 6th commandment to not murder. Not exactly because God’s standard is more than just actions look at what Jesus has to say.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. Matthew 5:21-22 ESV

Have you ever said that you hated someone? Have you ever spewed out curses in anger wishing that they would just die and go away? God’s standard looks at your heart and out of your heart words flow. That is where God judges.

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. Matthew 15:18-19 ESV

I can learn much about a person by listening to what they say. I can tell if they are a complainer, a boaster, or a liar. I can tell if they have wisdom, graciousness, and encouragement. Our words can build up or tear down. God will call us to account for them all. We have all spoken words that we regret. The point is not to take a vow of silence, but to be aware and search out the content of your conversations. Ask God to show you how your words are hurting your relationships, your job, and how you live. Repent and ask Jesus to make you new. Submit to His authority and make him the King of your life. When you speak you speak not as yourself, but as a representative of the King.

Be Poets on a Stage

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There comes a time when a decision must be made. I am not a person of action I am an observer soaking in everything I see. I will sit on the outside looking in analyzing and understanding all that is happening. Then at some point I choose to participate or walk away. I do this even if the action is happening to me. I will observe and calculate. Pondering what action if any that I should take. But eventually the time comes when a decision must be made. I spent part of my life observing the claims of God, the claims he left for us in His Word the Bible and a decision had to be made.

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:21-22 ESV

That decision is to give up my life and make Jesus the source, purpose, and focus. It is intimidating and overwhelming to meditate on. Repent of the filthy wicked life I am living and humbly submit to the life that God wants for me? To put into action what I find in His word is no easy task.

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, Hebrews 11:32-39 ESV

The Bible is full of history of men and women who became doers of the word. Sometimes they conquered kingdoms and sometimes they were killed with the sword. The author of Hebrews tells us that the world is not worthy of these men and women who all followed what God wanted for them. Life or death, worldly success or failure, these men and women of faith heard and did what God wanted. Brother and sisters read their story, draw courage from their examples.

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:23-25 ESV

Being a doer of the “perfect law, the law of liberty” no matter how hard, no matter what the cost is what God wants. James tells us that this doer will be blessed. How can I be blessed if it cost me my life or my success on this earth? The author of Hebrews answered that question in the conclusion of what we read above “though commended through their faith, did not receive what promised”. Both those that conquered kingdoms and those killed by the sword did not receive what was promised, because what is promised is not provided in this life. They took actions based on a promise in eternity. Look at the word “doer” here it is an interesting word that is only found in one other book in the Bible. Luke used it in a speech he recorded from Paul in Acts.

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Acts 17:26-28 ESV

Paul speaking to the Athenians tells them that their own “poets” recognized that we are God’s children that are given a role by God himself. That word “poets” is the same word James used to say be a “doer” of the word. James wants us to be actors, performers, poets, producers, and authors that bring to life the Word of God. God’s script is written. We have all been given life and boundaries and dwelling here and now. We are all actors on a stage would we not be more successful if we act out His script? If we adlib or refuse to participate then we will be a mess and it will be obvious. If you want to know what that script is then you need to be in the Bible reading it, and by faith listening. Then you will have a choice to make and I have found that choice to move to action is obvious and compelling.

Everything is Awesome… When it comes to God’s Word.

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The Bible. To the unfamiliar it is a dusty old book, it is written in a language of thee and thou that is hard to understand. To those that were raised in church and had a bad experience with unrepentant people who should not have been in leadership positions the Bible might be familiar, but not understood. Maybe it is only an acquaintance, but not something absorbed. Worse still maybe it is viewed just as a collection of fairy tells and parables, but of no real value in the world of technology and science. Maybe for some of you, Lord be merciful, it is a book that you hate and want nothing to do with. Perception is a type of reality for those of you that identify with the above descriptions. If that is your reality then I have a request. In fact I would plead with you to give the Bible a chance. I beg of you see what God’s Word says for itself, not what others have said about it. Eternity is at stake if what the Bible wants to communicate is true. In short the Bible is an awesome, mind blowing, love letter from the Creator of the universe to the crown of His creation you and me.

The Bible is not a single book. The mainline protestant Bible is a collection of 66 books that were written over a period of 2,000 years. Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek are the languages that make up the 66 books. Even more interestingly there are 40 authors who wrote from three different continents. Considering the diversity in people, geography, and the time spans it is even more amazing that the Bible is a consistent narrative from the Creation in Genesis, to the end of times in Revelations to make it seem as if it is a single book. There is nothing like the Bible anywhere else on Earth. It is a unique work that has been translated into over 2,000 languages and has been printed more than any other book in history. This book claims to be the Words of God the Creator and it is a knowledge base that deserves first hand attention from each individual.

None of the above facts are a surprise to me knowing that the same God capable of creating the universe is also capable of creating a masterpiece of communication to his children so that we can know who he is, what we have done to His Creation, and what He has done to restore us to Himself.

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. Psalms 119:9-16 ESV

This Psalmist sings about the excitement he has for the Words of God and the desire he has to memorize, meditate, and live life according to what he finds there. Is it possible to love the words of a book so much? Is the Creator God so spectacular that life can be found within the pages of what this God has plainly communicated? I can only ask, and plead that you see for yourself.

God’s Word is better than a diamond, better than a diamond set between emeralds. You’ll like it better than strawberries in spring, better than red, ripe strawberries. Psalm 19:10 MSG

In Psalm 19 the author communicates how valuable and how desirable the Bible is to those that spend time exploring its depths. It is better than a diamond set between emeralds, meaning that the Word of God is more valuable than stacks of cash and even more beautiful than the most stunning jewelry. The author goes even further when he tells us that God’s Word is sweeter and more nourishing than even the most perfect fruit we could lay eyes on. When one goes to look at the original Hebrew for the translation “God’s Word is better” we find a Hebrew word that is used to communicate “Desire” in the most raw and personal way. What is it that you desire most in life? Money, Sex, Relationships, Treasure, Power, or Fame? Whatever you desire the Psalmist is saying that God’s Word is better, God’s Word is more fulfilling, and that God’s Word is more than all you could ever want. This song writer is saying that he would give up wealth, fame, luxury for the words of God. Will you take time to see what this book has to say? Could it really be that awesome? Would you set your preconceptions aside to read it for yourself?

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8 ESV

If there was something that God did not know, or if there was something that God needed to learn then He would no longer be God. As Creator of everything including the laws of nature God is Awesome. Everything he tells us is Awesome. He has perfect wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. His knowledge of human nature is perfect, and His knowledge of you, my friend, is perfect. Seek him out for wisdom. Read his word, the Bible, for understanding. Trust me you will be amazed at the content and depth of His Words.

Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven! Hebrews 12:25 NLT

In the narrative of the Bible, God’s Words, He tells us that men and women from the beginning have been in rebellion refusing to listen, or be involved with God. We have broken His laws and have lied, stolen from, and killed our brothers and sisters. Our very nature wants to run and hide from Bible, because it is God’s Word. Jesus, who is God in the flesh, has told us that he came to earth so seek and save the lost. I am the lost and in need of saving. Jesus is my salvation and it is his words that have been communicated in this collection of 66 books, written over a period of 2,000 years. The Author of Hebrews warns us to not reject these words from Heaven, from Jesus, who is God the Creator. The Bible is Awesome, because its author is awesome. Please take some time to see what God himself wants to say to you.

Ecclesiastes 5:15 | Commitment

arlingtonWhat is the major commitment in life that consumes all of the time you have? Stop now and think for a few moments and think about what the number one commitment might be. We have many commitments, some not of our own choosing, but there likely is some single commitment that is most important to you. Spouse? Kids? Work? Service to a Country at war? Politics? Sports? Something material like a house or car? Maybe a charitable cause to eradicate homelessness, or hunger is the commitment? I am a practical person and my major commitment is my wife and children. Much of what I do in life is for their benefit. Take a look at the people, ideas, and things you place a commitment on and then ask to what end you are committed to those people, ideas, and things. I ask the question that way because this life is temporary. We are all going to die, and if you are fortunate you will get around 80 years of this life to work on your commitments.

Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands. Ecclesiastes 5:15 NIV

Just think about how temporary that is. Is that Job in and of itself worthy of your time and effort? Is that Charity serving a cause of worth? Is the most current news on Sports Center worth the attention and time?

For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days they pass through like a shadow? Who can tell them what will happen under the sun after they are gone? Ecclesiastes 6:12 NIV

I reflect on this sobering idea of the temporary nature of this life. As Americans living in the relatively peaceful west my mind drifts toward the east where Israel and Palestine are at war. Where Russian and Ukrainian fighting has accidently killed hundreds of people flying overhead at 30,000 feet. It is so meaningless and evil the end to those lives. More closely to home I look at the soldiers who serve to keep me safe, who serve to keep the shores where I live at peace. That is a commitment from them that I am grateful for, because it allows my commitment to my family to be possible.

There is one commitment I have read about that gives me pause and it is of Jonathan and Rosalind Goforth. They served as missionaries in China around 1900 to great personal sacrifice. Their commitment was absolute and it lasted a life time. Johnathan did not buy Rosalind an engagement ring he gave the money for the ring to the poor. They lived most of their productive life in Asia as missionaries suffering illness and even the death of 5 of their children. They had to flee a 1000 miles across China when war broke out. Toward the end of their service Rosalind returned home to Canada with their children and she wanted Jonathan to return with her. He refused and asked this question to her “Suppose our country were at war with another nation and I, a British officer in command of an important unit. Much depended upon me as commander as to whether it was to be victory or defeat. Would I, in that event, be permitted to forsake my post in response to a call from my family”? Johnathan eventually returned home to Canada at the age of 74 and almost blind. He then traveled preaching the gospel even preaching four times on the Sunday before his death.

Jonathan’s commitment to the Gospel of Jesus overrode any other commitment even to that of his family. I and most others may balk at such a disregard, but he viewed the world as a battle ground that needed his attention. Just like the soldiers who leave their families at home and commit to service in a war in another land Jonathan followed the same ideal.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24 NIV

I think men and women like the Goforth’s grasped the idea of deny and follow from Jesus in a way that I living in the comfort of my job, home, family, and consumerism are afraid to absorb. Johnathan was committed, he was willing to “deny” the life he wanted with all the comforts for a radical life serving Jesus. If this life is temporary and eternity with Christ is forever then are my commitments in this life really the best choices? What does that say about me if I selfishly make myself comfortable while my neighbor who does not know Christ has only this life now to look forward too? Maybe I like Johnathan should “deny” myself even just a fraction of the extreme he followed? Jesus used the word “deny” here to mean that this follower would “lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests”. This word is only used in the Gospels and only in context of words from Jesus to the disciples. Jesus calls us to walk away from the selfishness of ourselves and join Him in this work.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:24 NIV

Following where Jesus leads means that the plans I have for myself and the commitments I want to make may not align with the plans Christ has for me. This is demonstrated in the act of Baptism. The individual who has accepted the Lordship of Christ and wants Him to be their advocate before God symbolically is immersed under water and then raised out of the water. The old commitments, life, desires give way to a new commitment, life, and desire.

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life … Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. Romans 6:4;13 NIV

As you think of the commitments that take up your time are there any that might not be so important? Is the one big commitment something Jesus wants from you? My commitment to my wife and children is aligned with the life Jesus wants for me, but Jesus would not accept a commitment to my family to give them only material goods without teaching them an eternal perspective that is in service to God. Would you commit to search the scripture and pray for commitments from God that should be higher in priority? The service to God will last forever. You can take that with you. Service to self in this short life is temporary and none of it will benefit us in the life to come.

Tucker, Ruth A. From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya A Biographical History of Christian Missions. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004.

Confession

Have you ever done anything wrong? Have you ever done something stupid that you regret? Have you hurt someone close to you because of your own selfish choices? I have. It is not easy to talk about and I can’t imagine that anyone wants to revisit these moments of failure. There are times we fail to measure up to even our own standards of right and wrong. Sometimes our bad choices pile up to the point that relationships are destroyed. Have you ever lost a friendship or become estranged from family because the trust was broken too many times?

God provided a standard that he laid out in just a few rules to show us a path of living righteously. Those 10 rules come in two parts. 1-4 are rules for our relationship with Him. 5-10 are rules for our relationship with our family, friends, passersby, and enemies. Let’s look at those last six rules quickly to see how we measure up to God’s standards and evaluate how we have failed those around us.

Exodus 20:12-17 MSG
5. Honor your father and mother.
6. No murder.
7. No adultery.
8. No stealing.
9. No lies about your neighbor.
10. No lusting after your neighbor’s house—or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don’t set your heart on anything that is your neighbor’s.

#5 Have you ever been disrespectful to your parents?
#6 Have you ever hated someone and then killed them? Hopefully the answer is no, but if you have hated someone in your heart God’s standard says that you have broken this rule.

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 1 John 3:15 ESV

#7 Have you ever committed adultery? Of course not some of you would say… But Jesus tells us that God’s standard is that even looking with lust upon another person is enough to break this rule in God’s eyes.

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:28 ESV

#8 Have you ever stolen anything? Be honest with yourself, even if it is something small or intangible?
#9 Have you ever lied?
#10 Have you ever wanted something that someone else had and thought about how you could get it or wished they did not have that something?

If you are a normal person and are anything like me then you have broken every one of those rules and you have broken them over and over. Are you familiar with the history of King David? Read his story in 2 Samuel 11. King David is the leader of a people, who loves God, and is loved by God. He is blessed with every material possession. David a good person sinned and then did more evil to cover up what he had done. As King he ordered a woman that he lusted after to visit him (#7,#8,#10). She became pregnant and to cover this up he called her husband, Uriah, home from war in order to get him to go home and be with his wife so that when it is discovered that she is pregnant everyone would think that it was Uriah’s child (#9). Uriah who is an honorable man refused to go home to his wife when all the soldiers were still at war where he felt he should be. So King David did an even more terrible thing. He sent this man back to war with orders to the General to make sure that the Uriah would be placed into a battle where it was guaranteed that he would be killed (#6). King David who is a good king almost overnight breaks five commandments because of one selfish action.

When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she lamented over her husband. And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord. 2 Samuel 11:26-27 ESV

While I do not have the power of a kingdom at my disposal to act on my selfishness I am still a great sinner based on God’s standards. I am guilty because I have broken all those same commands in different ways. If you are honest and reflective on this you should agree that you are in the same boat with me because the human condition in this matter is universal.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23 ESV

I have displeased the Lord just as King David displeased the Lord. What Judgment did you pass on King David? That same judgment is due to yourself as well. Remember that if you are honest then you have admitted breaking the same rules that King David broke.

So where does that leave us? Like King David we have sinned and have been judged. What recourse do we have? I recommend the same path King David took and is recorded for us in Psalm 32…

Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment. For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory. Psalm 32:1-7 NLT

Recognize your guilt before God. Confess your sins to him. Stop trying to hide and pretend that you have done nothing wrong. God forgave King David of a horrible string of sins. He will forgive you as well. In fact that is why God became a man in the body of Jesus to take the judgment of sin on our behalf. Act now as David wrote “let all the godly pray to you while there is still time”. Now is the time of mercy and forgiveness before judgment comes.

Afraid

What is your fear? Snakes, Public speaking, no food for today, stuck in rush hour traffic, persecution because of who you are? There always seems to be something to fear, much of those fears we push away into the back of our mind. Sometimes those fears force themselves into the present and must be dealt with. Why do we fear? Will we lose our life, possessions, or will the result of our fears cause pain of some kind? This life is temporary for everyone. Everyone will die. Is that what we fear the most?

A messenger came and told David, “The hearts of the people of Israel are with Absalom.” Then David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem, “Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin on us and put the city to the sword.” 2 Samuel 15:13-14 ESV

King David has a real and immediate fear in 2 Samuel. One of his sons, Absalom, is making an attempt to take over the kingdom by force. The uprising is so effective that David needs to flee Jerusalem to avoid being killed. Can you imagine the fear in such a realization and being forced to run for your life knowing that if you are caught that death waits. Absalom was followed by leaders David trusted and many others betrayed David giving him up for death to make Absalom king. Imagine the anger and helplessness at such a betrayal. How do you respond to a fearful situation?

King David was a sinner just like everyone else, but he also was a man that turned to God in real and genuine ways. Large portions of the Psalms are attributed to him. Scholars believe that Psalm 55 was written by David at this time of betrayal and this Psalm is a great model for us on how to deal with hurts and fear that are a real part of life.

Be Honest with God and yourself about the fear and anxiety.

My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. Psalm 55:4-5 ESV

God wants your life to be interlinked with His plans. Humbly ask Him for help and He will show mercy.

As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. Psalm 55:15-17 ESV

Trust God and what only He can do. Trust Him because as Creator of all things he is worthy of that trust.

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. But you, God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of decay; the bloodthirsty and deceitful will not live out half their days. But as for me, I trust in you. Psalm 55:22-23 ESV

Remember His faithfulness in the past. As we grow in our relationship with God, we will do well to remember His faithfulness in past troubles.

He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me. God, who is enthroned from of old, who does not change—he will hear them and humble them, because they have no fear of God. Psalms 55:18-19 ESV

God never promises to take away all pain or fear. Even King David a man that God loved still had troubles. This world is cursed because of our sins and as a result death and suffering are ever present. Yet God does promise that if we take refuge in Him he will be our help and sustaining grace.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

Are you ready to shelter in God? Is he not big enough? Is he not strong enough? Is he not just enough? Is he not loving enough? Why then do we still struggle in our own strength trying to do our best that is never good enough? STOP and turn to Him. He has already done all the work preparing for the future when fear will no longer be an issue. Jesus has taken it all on Himself. Turn to Jesus and repent of your rebelliousness. Submit to Him and give him the authority that is due and justified. He will be your strength to face what lies ahead in life and death.