The counsel of the wicked

Posted: June 22, 2017 in Thoughts on God

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; (Psalm 1:1 ESV)

One can easily read the first verse of Psalm 1 and think they have it figured out. Don’t ask a non-Christian for moral advice, simple right? Yes that is true, but there can be more to it than mere moral advice. Our morals have an impact on many, if not all, of our daily decisions throughout our life.

What we must understand as we move through life then, is that if one is not a follower of Christ they are his enemy (Romans 5:8) and a slave to sin (John 8:34). With that in mind, the next question that begs asking is who do we idolize?

Not necessarily a “false idol” or “fake god”, but somebody in a specific vocation or field who you want to be like. It may be a successful businessman, an MVP athlete, or even a famous singer. As we idolize these men or women, we are walking in their counsel whether we realize it or not.

We study their methods to become rich, attempt identical moves on the field, or try to sing and live like they do. Is it possible this was a human behavior the writer of the first Psalm was directing us against? While we may not be asking for moral advice from those we look up to, we are still influenced by them. This can be very dangerous as many times they get to where they are through immoral actions or attitudes. Look at many of the politicians who have had successful careers while having affairs, cheating on their taxes or even taking bribes!

It might be harder to live in light of Godly counsel, but in the end those who live and work to God’s glory will prosper (Psalm 1:3).

Is this the time to look toward a Godly man or woman rather than the world for direction?

What controls you?

Posted: June 21, 2017 in Thoughts on God

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 ESV)

When you wake up every morning, what is the first thing you think of? When you make a decision, what is the motivating factor? These are both important questions we should be asking ourselves. The Apostle Paul tells us what the answer should be if we are Christians, that “the love of Christ controls us”.

This “love of Christ” is not a vague notion, but can be present in two ways. First, it is that we understand the love Christ had for us through his death. Second, it is that our understanding of his love brings us to love him, and then our love of Jesus controls us. It can be a struggle though, to envision what this love looks like.

Often when we hear the word love, we think of silly notes, bouquets of flowers, or even “puppy-dog” eyes for someone. But when we only think of love in this manner, we do it a great disservice. Especially considering we don’t always have intense emotions or feelings directed toward Jesus. Paul’s words today should help use to realize that this love is not simply a feeling for someone, but action that stems from our “abiding” in his love (John 15:9).

Read John 15 today and meditate on two themes: what Jesus does, and who Jesus is. Remember, we don’t just love him because he saved us, we love him because he’s worthy.

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. (1 Timothy 3:1 ESV)

1 Timothy 3:1 is a verse that is often glossed over. We tend to focus on the verses after it that describes the attributes of an overseer (we won’t argue about what an “overseer” is, we will just put them in a place of spiritual leadership). We over look it because we don’t really understand the context of Paul writing to Timothy here.

1 Timothy was probably written in mid 60 AD. This was when the persecution of the Church began intensifying and then escalated under the reign of Nero and the emperors after him. By 70 AD, James, Paul, and Peter had been martyred. Think about this: three of the first spiritual leaders of the Church had been killed only 5 years after Paul told Timothy that it is noble to aspire to be a spiritual leader.

We read this verse and think of the mega pastors and guest speakers who fill auditoriums and forget the spiritual leaders in non-Christian countries and those who died for the Church today. A spiritual leader in Timothy’s day was in constant danger and faced real persecution. They did not look forward to a packed house or book deal, they looked forward to hardship and constant struggle. Jesus is referred to as a suffering servant (Isaiah 53) and he told his disciples they must become slaves in order to lead (Mark 10:42-44). Big churches and speaking gigs are not bad, but when they become the reason we lead, they become sin.

Here are two questions to ask yourself today about spiritual leadership:

  • Am I willing to be a spiritual leader who will endure hardships for those I lead?
  • Am I following a spiritual leader right now who is like the spiritual leaders of the New Testament?

So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also in Rome. (Romans 1:15 ESV)

This simple phrase is surrounded by some very “high profile” texts, and can often be read over without much notice taken. But consider for a moment Paul’s excitement, or eagerness, at preaching the gospel to the Romans. What motivated him to anticipate his preaching to them?

Read on, and Paul clearly describes natural man’s misplaced worship. That we worship the created rather than Creator (Romans 1:25). But what makes Paul eager to preach the gospel is the One whom the gospel reveals, Jesus! The deeper our knowledge and understanding of Christ the more “eager” we will be as well to proclaim it. Our fervor will grow, and rightly so, as we seek to know nothing save “Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). It’s hard to get excited about someone you know little of, meet humbly with Jesus today, and get to know him. An eagerness to share the gospel will soon follow.

Are you eager for the Gospel?

Politics and the Bible

Posted: June 16, 2017 in Thoughts on God

On this date in 1858, Abraham Lincoln was nominated by his party to run for the US Senate. In his acceptance speech, Honest Abe qoted Scripture. This was not an uncommon practice among politicians. We still see that custom employed by today’s political class (although, these days they seem to misquote it more than quote it).
The excerpt was a direct one from Jesus which is found in all three synoptic Gospels (Matthew 12:25, Mark 3:25, and Luke 11:17). It was contained in what later became known as his famous “House Divided” speech. It was a bold statement against slavery and is widely considered to be the reason he lost that particular election. It’s also considered the cornerstone of his subsequent run for the presidency. Funny how that works.
Lincoln, of course, was using the verse to illustrate the need for the union of states to remain in tact. This was a far cry from the context in which Jesus first uttered this remark. The Lord had just cast out a demon and was accused of being in league with Satan himself. The retort to his detractors was meant to point out that (if he was part of the Devil’s team) he wouldn’t have divided the evil kingdom against itself. Still, Lincoln’s point was well understood (albeit rejected).
There’s an old saying that states, “We shouldn’t interpret Scripture as much as we should allow Scripture to interpret us.” It simply means the Bible should be our guide as opposed to a tool we use to back up our own personal agendas. We’ve gotten quite astute at ferreting out verses to back our political leanings. This little tactic is certainly not limited to demagogues. It runs rampant throughout the church as well.
Let me suggest to you that the Bible is not a weapon to be wielded against your political enemies. If anything, it is a book of faith that can be used to unite us rather than push us further apart.
Hmmm… Maybe Mr. Lincoln was close to being right after all–politics not withstanding.

Learning humility

Posted: June 15, 2017 in Thoughts on God

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11 ESV)

Moses is named in Scripture as the most humble man ever (Numbers 12:3). Reading of his encounter with God at the beginning of Exodus, we can see this humility in his speech. But, if we turn back a few chapters, we learn that humility wasn’t something Moses possessed naturally. He grew up in the posh setting of Egyptian royalty. After growing up in the royal house, he decided to visit his oppressed brothers, the Israelites. He then witnessed some of them being beaten by an Egyptian (Exodus 2:11). We can assume, by his actions after seeing this, that he assumed it was his God given role to save the Israelites from the oppression of the Egyptians, and he killed the Egyptian (Exodus 2:12). This doesn’t appear to be the mark of a humble man. He eventually fled Egypt in fear and spent 40 years as a shepherd in the wilderness.

God had a plan for Moses from the beginning to save his people. But, Moses did it his way instead of God’s way and in turn, ran away. It was during this time that we can assume Moses learned the importance of humility and was molded into the man God wanted him to be. God often uses these times in the wilderness to refine us for his future works as he did with Moses. You might feel a great call from God for a mighty work, but yet need some refining. Embrace the the wilderness as a time to grow closer to God and become more like him.

Stay patient and learn what it is God is teaching you.

Listening to the hurting

Posted: June 13, 2017 in Thoughts on God

I have heard many such things; 
miserable comforters are you all.
 Shall windy words have an end? 
Or what provokes you that you answer? (Job 16:2-3 ESV)

Have you ever had a friend go through a hard time and you didn’t know how to comfort them? We might quote Romans 8:28, thinking that it will make them feel better, knowing that God will make this horrible situation out for his good. We can’t stomach not having words to say to someone who is hurting or confused. Our desire might be to explain why their situation is happening or give them words of comfort. We might even call them daily to see if their situation is improving. Job’s friends were the same way.

The majority of the book of Job consists of his friends explaining to him why his children have died, his livestock are all gone, and he has sores all over his body. We would generally agree with most of the reasons his friends gave for his hurting. But, they aren’t the reasons Job has actually encountered these hardships!

Their words of comfort were really words of discomfort. Sometimes God will use us to give a Biblical answer to the suffering a person is enduring, but there will still be instances when we have no idea what to say. Instead of spouting off religiously oriented phrases in these situations, we should listen, listen, and listen some more.

Lend an ear to the hurting, instead of trying to solve all of their problems.