O My Soul

Habakkuk 2: 4

Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith.

Yesterday Habakkuk taught us that God does not want us to rely on our own strength, but rather to trust in His. We talked about partnering with the Holy Spirit, allowing him to guide our decisions and actions. We learned that He is not pleased with our looking to our own strength and skills. In fact, the scripture said we will be held guilty if that is our reliance. I don’t want to be held guilty by God but further, I don’t want to work myself to death when He has sent me His Spirit to do all the heavy lifting. Why would we do that? Why do we do that?

Pride – says the prophet Habakkuk or rather God through Habakkuk. It is vain pride, ego mania, that causes us to focus on us instead of our savior, Father and helper. It sounds ridiculous! Why are we looking to our abilities when our Father is omniscient? Habakkuk says, our soul is not right within us. In the Southern United States we would say, “Something ain’t right!” What a shock for God to tell us it is our very own soul which has gone afoul.

Before we panic let’s ask this question, “How can we get our soul right?” When you were born again, that was a rebirth from above. God breathed new life into you and renewed your spirit. What of the soul, though? Here is the bad news, you are going to have to get your hands dirty. Yep, you have work to do. Now, are you willing? Truth be told, probably only about 20% of you answered, “yes,” so it is to you twenty percenters that I will speak.

Here is the answer. Turn your Bible to Romans 12: 2. What does it say? Here is God’s instruction on how to renew your soul. It has to be retrained by renewing your mind with the Word of God. You have to do this. Before you freak out, though, remember what yesterday’s Word of the Day was about. It was all about partnership, right? There is nothing you ever have to do alone again. The other side of the coin, though, is that God is not going to do it without you. You are partners. Let that sink in. Imagine forming a partnership with Yahweh. Picture yourself shaking hands with Him as you seal your agreement.

Now, here you are. You have a reborn spirit which not only is in the likeness of God but actually is a little piece of Him. He is part of your genetics and your breath now and you are part of His. Our minds, though, are unruly and must be taken in hand. Your spirit in conjunction with Father’s is more than up to this task. You are going to have to spend time in your Bible. I hate it for you, but it is just the truth. It is going to have to be done but it is so easy. Let me help you.

Every week day I send you a Bible verse, right? Okay, just start there. Read the verses around it or read the whole chapter. Or, read it in several versions. Online databases have made this so easy for us. Now, here is the big secret. Do this with Dad’s Spirit, your helper. Start prayerfully. What does that even look like. Well, it does not look like your Pastor’s beautiful seminary prayers. It goes more like this, “Holy Spirit, I want my mind renewed and I have this verse today with which to start. Show me more about it. Speak to me what you want me to hear in this passage.” Keep it simple. The Holy Spirit didn’t go to seminary either. He just speaks plain old language like you. Although . . . he also speaks in picture language so watch the pictures that flow through your mind. Be like a child and just see in your mind what he speaks to you. Maybe that verse references other verses. If you are viewing them online, all it takes is a click and your screen will be painted with a bunch of similar verses. It is so cool!

Look, you can do this. You can get that old raggedy soul into shape and let me tell you a truth, it is fun. Once you know how to do it and know these simple little tips, it becomes such fun. You are going to be surprised at how much the Spirit speaks to your spirit. Hang on to your hat because he absolutely loves this process.

Now don’t be proud. Don’t look to yourself as the one who must heal your soul. That is not your job. It is Dad’s. And don’t be proud thinking you can do this on your own. Don’t look to your intelligence. We’re just not that smart, frankly. I mean really, compare us with God. We haven’t even had enough years to absorb the enormity of material available. Whatsmore, you don’t want to have to sort through the world’s entire database. Just yield, surrender (do you hear the song playing in your head) to the Lord and let the Holy Spirit lead you to what you need. Let God touch your soul with His love. You will be healed, and you are going to be full of His joy. This is the sweet spot. Let the Lord lead you. Let go of vain glory, foolish pride and surrender all. Be renewed in your mind and let your soul breathe fresh air.

The righteous shall live by faith, not by sight. Where there is pride, faith does not operate. Give God your belief and trust and He will be right there with you making the journey fun.

Pride, Advice and Wisdom

Proverb 13: 10               NIV

Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

Among the unpopular topics of the day, this must be one. We have become a proud, arrogant people who value our own opinions above all others and rarely will lower ourselves to receive advice from anyone, even God. We don’t inquire of the Lord because we are smart enough ourselves. Hasn’t God given us wisdom? He has given us brains for a reason, right?

I have observed us become smarter than our doctors, smarter than our lawyers and smarter than our pastors. While no one is perfect and no one except the Spirit has all the answers, surely some people know better than we on some subjects. We have become so prideful that we do not wish to hear advice or even teaching. Learning should be a lifelong process. I heard it said one time that as soon as you stop learning, you die. The point is not that you die physically but rather the person within you begins to decay. How shall we continue to learn when we are unwilling to bow to the expertise of another? Even though the Bible is packed with the wisdom of God, Christians don’t value it very highly. We certainly are not clawing for wisdom. We worship the Bible itself but not the content.

We don’t want to be told what to do, we don’t want to be under the authority of another. To listen to the counsel of another is to raise them above us, and that we will not have. I think, “God, save me from myself,” but perhaps what I should pray is, “Father, save me from my pride.” How do we change this tendency in ourselves, much less in our culture? If we do not humbly seek our God, then how will we be able to receive the wisdom He gives others for us? We talk often about our cultural woes and bemoan how our nations are becoming less godly, but I think people have other things in mind when they decry the current state of the culture. This issue, though, is more dangerous to the fabric of our culture than some of the things people would cite. We need to understand which issues are merely symptoms and which are causes. Pride would seem to be a root cause. In fact, I believe it is embodied in the Ten Commandments in which God told us to have no gods, no idols before Him. Our arrogance lifts us up above God which is the original sin. Satan thought he was as smart as God and his insolence shook heaven. God cast him and all of his cronies out because of his insolence. Then man was silly enough to listen to the devil and elevate himself to godlike status. That is what caused man to eat of the forbidden tree.

Pride certainly does breed quarrels. It won’t allow us to listen to anyone’s thoughts so each person vies for the floor which causes friction. Wisdom awaits those who enable themselves to receive instruction. The question, though, is how to we train our egos to allow advice? What is needful? Perhaps we should throw ourselves at the feet of Christ and ask his advice?

Wisdom is for those who take advice. Therefore, seek wisdom. Inquire of God but also allow yourself to be led by those who have gone before you. If you don’t have anyone who knows more than you, you need some new friends. There is guidance available for those who will humble themselves. I pray that we all can learn this valuable life lesson.  Please think about, or even meditate on, today’s verse and email us with your thoughts.  What can we do to right this ship?  Thank you.

Prideful

Ezekiel 16: 49             CEB

This is the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were proud, had plenty to eat, and enjoyed peace and prosperity; but she didn’t help the poor and the needy.

You know what happened to Sodom, don’t you? The city was obliterated from the face of the earth. What was her crime? The Complete Jewish Bible tells us clearly, “The crimes of your sister S’dom were pride and gluttony; she and her daughters were careless and complacent, so that they did nothing to help the poor and needy.”

Did you know that pride was a sin? What about gluttony? Now that definitely hits below the belt. Sodom was prosperous. Her people had plenty and although they lacked for nothing, their hearts were hard, so that they did nothing to help the poor or the needy.

Does that really sound so different from our towns and cities today? How about the church? Are we, as the church, doing much to help the poor and needy? We can even reduce this analysis to the individual level and ask ourselves how well we are doing at helping others. The New American Standard Bible says that the people of Sodom were arrogant. They were so blessed in their prosperity and peace that they became arrogant. They began to think they were responsible for their wealth and expected other people to make their own way too.

It’s a funny thing. Sometimes when we have much, we become more greedy than those who have less. That is what happened to Sodom. They horded their wealth rather than helping to meet the needs of others.

It’s too late for Sodom but not for us. We have a chance to do something about our fate and that of those less fortunate than ourselves. At every level we can change our perspective and begin to give to others. Our churches can greatly impact their communities. We must change our consumer culture and become one of charity. With our tithes and offerings, even our local churches can have a great impact. Ask yourself, what you can do to effect change. We should all begin with prayer and with seeking God. We should trust Him to show us new paths and we can follow those paths to an entirely different way of living, one which does not only consume the blessing but instead spreads the blessing to those less fortunate. Let’s allow this to sink in and then let’s all find ways to initiate change.

Rightful Reliance

Habakkuk 2: 4

Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith.

There are quite a few observations we can receive from the prophet Habakkuk. One of the first is that the proud person and the righteous person are not one in the same. That may seem obvious but perhaps we have not yet made that connection intellectually. We can be either arrogant or righteous but not both.

Secondly, Habakkuk tells us that an arrogant or proud person is not right on the inside. There is something amiss in their soul. This is really tragic. There is damage on the inside and this damage or unresolved injury prevents this person from being righteous. Now in the New Testament, Jesus is our righteousness so one might argue that righteousness still belongs to the arrogant or self-centered person because of Jesus. The problem with that argument is that this righteousness, which was purchased for us by Jesus, must still be received. The arrogant person can no more receive the grace of God’s righteousness through Jesus than he was able to do under the old covenant. God has always been the source of righteousness. We must die to self, take our eyes off of ourselves and live unto Christ if we want to walk in the blessing of Christ. All the blessings are provided for us but they are “in Christ” where we too are supposed to be. We cannot be into ourselves and into Christ. One might even ask how a person can be a Christian, a follower of The Way, with eyes, motivation and passion focused on oneself instead of on the Christ.

Lastly, the self-absorbed person cannot live by faith. Faith is in the rightness provided for us in Christ Jesus. That means that an arrogant person cannot also be a person of faith. This person, even if he confesses to be a Christian will be unable to live and walk under the umbrella of faith. Faith begins with Jesus. Faith comes through an end to self-reliance and a surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the Word of Christ (Romans 10: 17). Faith, therefore, requires submission to the person of Jesus. Faith requires that we put our egos, ideas, thoughts, reasonings and truly all that we are behind the words of Christ. That necessarily means that we cannot be self-absorbed, self-impressed or self-sustaining and also reliant on the person and words of Jesus. We must take the idol of our intellect off of the throne of our hearts and ensconce Jesus there.

Not one of us wants to admit that we are arrogant because only fools are such. Whatsmore, I may find it quite easy to lie to myself in this regard, but here is the question I must consider, that is, not whether I believe or think myself to be arrogant but rather what others may say about me. If I can be completely honest with myself do I suspect that others might find me self-impressed. Oh dear God in heaven, save me from myself. Repentance brings the oil of gladness and repentance means nothing more than turning and going the other way, it means a change of heart, a change of mind. It does not mean travail or moaning and groaning. Just let Jesus and his word change your way of thinking. Be saved by the renewal of your thoughts, by the refreshing of your mind and be free from the burden of yourself.

The Wise Follower

Hebrews 13: 7

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.

On two occasions the Apostle Paul encouraged people to imitate him. The first occurrence is in 1 Corinthians 4: 16 where he wrote, “I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me.” I find that remarkable. What kind of confidence does it take to tell people to examine your life and imitate it? Isn’t that exactly what today’s verse teaches though? The second time Paul instructs people to follow him by imitating his life is in 1 Corinthians 11: 1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” The key is in the last phrase. He was confident in his following of Christ. “Follow me as I follow Christ,” he might say.

No one walks this journey alone. There is no such thing as a self-made person. We all stand upon someone else’s shoulders. The wise among us are better at this than the rest of us. They don’t let their ego inhibit their growth. For some people, advancing on the journey is more important than trying to be their own leader. There is an expression in legal circles that an attorney who represents himself in litigation has a fool for a client. The same sort of wisdom can be applied to our spiritual journey. Only a fool would nominate himself as his own leader. How can I lead myself where I have not yet gone?

I am increasingly aware of and impressed by the number of times the Bible addresses humility. It is one of the overarching principles in the Bible. Humility goes with honor. Pride is associated with one’s destruction (Proverb 16: 18). Pride is often joined with foolishness while humility is the hallmark of the wise.   The reason this is important is that the number one reason we do not submit to another’s leadership is ego. If we can embrace humility, then we can benefit from the wisdom of those who have gone before us.

There are people in the body of Christ who have been appointed as leaders and they bear a tremendous burden because they have been given the responsibility for leading the flock. Having been appointed to positions of leadership has not made them perfect but still they lead the way for us. As today’s verse teaches, we are able to consider the result of their conduct, which is the same as beholding their fruit. If the fruit is good then humble yourself and receive the benefit of their instruction. 

I want you to be a follower even if you have been chosen as a leader because only good followers make good leaders. I do want you to be wise in who you follow though. Let us look again at today’s verse. Beyond being a person who bears good fruit they also must be one who speaks the Word of God to you. I don’t care how wise or how awesome they seem, if their advice is worldly then they are deceived and will soon lead you in to deception. And by now we all know who the author of deception is. Paul intones, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” In like manner we might say, “Follow this advice which I have received from the Lord Jesus.” We also should follow those who are following Christ. There is no one of this earth who can give us wisdom that eclipses that of God. So, why would we listen to those fools? And yet we do. In plain language let us be clear. Do not take financial advice from someone who does not tithe. Do not take relationship advice from someone who does not have a deep and abiding relationship with the Father, Son and Spirit. Do not take business advice from someone who has not made Christ the Lord over their business. We have learned what happens when we follow worldly fiscal and business advice. We end up in an upside down economy such as we experienced in 2008 and the years following.

Lastly, I wish to strongly encourage you to honor those who are leading you. Read today’s verse again. Who does it bring to your mind? Who has spoken the Word of God to you? Of course our pastors spring to our minds and I wish for you to show them honor and gratitude because theirs is a difficult job to say the least. Perhaps there are some other people who have given you the benefit of their walk with the Lord. Hearken to their voice and bless them however you may.

Give us Life

Proverb 22: 4

The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honor and life.

A funny thing happened on the way to the . . . .

You’ve heard that old joke but it happened to me today on my way to another verse. This 22nd proverb just jumped out and caught me. I hope God caused it to leap off of the page for the Word of the Day, rather than it being a personal message for me. Eeither way, this scripture is seriously worth considering.

Most of us revere the Lord, which is what this “fear the Lord” means. So I don’t see that part as a problem for any of us. I suppose we could each take a moment and question how highly we esteem our Lord. Having done, though, I suspect that the larger problem that many of us need to deal with is humility. We have seen that humility is a pretty big issue with God. In the last couple of months we have seen half a dozen scriptures which either specifically talk about humility or which deal with the subject. It is certainly in our self-interest to be humble. First of all, people do not like arrogant people so we will have better friendships if we walk in humility but look at today’s passage. With humility also comes honor, riches and life. Well, we want life don’t we? So we need to pay attention to whether or not we really are humble.

The real question, I think, is, “Would other people describe me as humble.” You see, we are not always accurate assessors of ourselves. Think about your friends and family. Would they say you are a humble person? That is the test.

You know, Jesus, for all his power was a humble person. Do your remember this statement from Matthew 11: 29, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.” That makes one think. How can anyone of us be proud and arrogant when Jesus was humble? What do we think we have that makes us so special? Well, I can tell you that the only thing that I have that makes me special is Jesus.

So, here is what you do. Pray. Ask the Lord Jesus if you ever demonstrate arrogance or pride. Wait and let him answer. Many of us will be confronted with an uncomfortable truth but that is okay. The next step is to ask the Lord to take that out of you. Pray for his help because you cannot do this on your own. Ask him to continue his work in you making you into the image of himself. He will help you. He cannot do it without you, though. You are the master of your own house and he will not violate your sovereignty. However, he is poised, waiting and wanting to transform you into that beautiful creation that you were always destined to be. Do not hesitate in having this conversation with Jesus. Do it today because the longer you wait the longer you are denying yourself riches, honor and life.

Barnabas and Paul

Acts 15: 39

And there arose such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another.

This is such a tragic story. It is an early New Testament example of a church split. Barnabas and Paul were preaching partners. They travelled together spreading the good news of Christ. In fact, it was Barnabas who, we could say, sponsored Paul.  

Do you remember that Paul’s name had been Saul? He was well known in the region for persecuting Christians. He was even there when Stephen was stoned to death. Then he had that remarkable conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). After his conversion he began to preach about Jesus. He went to Jerusalem and tried to associate with the disciples but they didn’t trust him and so wouldn’t have anything to do with him. It was Barnabas who vouched for him. The scripture says “But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles” (Acts 9: 27).  

Barnabas was already established in the church but Paul was a newcomer and an outsider. It appears to me that Barnabas took Paul under his wing and helped him. No doubt Barnabas was Paul’s best friend and probably his mentor. Something has gone very wrong by Acts 15 though. They had a bitter disagreement and it split up the team. Neither one, it would seem, was willing to concede the point so they, quite literally, went their separate ways.

What was at the base of this split, do you think? A conflict arose over whether or not to take John Mark with them on their trip. It seems to me, though, that the argument really isn’t over this issue. There is something deeper going on here. I found another scripture recently which may shed some light on this situation. It is Proverb 139: 18 and it reads, “Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”  

I wonder if pride had crept into their relationship. Perhaps Barnabas still perceived himself as the leader and expected to make decisions and to advise Paul. Paul clearly did not wish to defer to Barnabas’ wishes. Neither man would give in so they were forced to separate. It’s sad.

We are faced with the same situations today and it is my theory that pride is at the root. Face it. Few of us have the humility to receive advice. We all want to pretend that we have all of the answers. Pride is our calling card. This is why we quarrel and why we lack wisdom. We are unwilling to receive wisdom from those who would willingly share it with us. There are people with great wisdom and experience who keep it all to themselves because they have learned that most people would rather blindly stumble along in their own strength. And that is a shame. We should be learning from the learned. We should be sitting at the feet of the elderly, gleaning information and experience from them. But alas . . . .

Perhaps if we could learn something from this story of Barnabas and Paul we would have fewer church splits and fewer relationship splits. We’ve learned a few things about pride and humility. Wisdom is found in those who take advice and pride breeds quarrels (Proverb 139: 18). When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom (Proverb 11: 2). “Pride precedes a disaster, and an arrogant attitude precedes a fall” (Proverb 16: 18). Up ‘til now, though, all of this knowledge is just in our heads. It will only transform us and our lives when it makes its way to our hearts. For that we need at least enough humility to pray to our God and ask Him for help and for wisdom. The problem is that the people who need this most are the one’s least likely to receive this into their hearts. Those of you who are nodding your heads as you read this have already come to appreciate the truth of these verses. Perhaps, then, if you would pray for the rest of us, maybe, just maybe, those of us who have a greater challenge in this area could find a measure of humility such that we could humble themselves before the Lord. We must go before the Lord and ask Him whether we are the humble or the proud and ask Him to soften our hearts. “While you are in there, Father, remove the prideful attitude and arrogance and remake us into the image of your dear son.”

Truly, if we will allow the father to remake our hearts so that arrogance and pride are not central cast members on the stage of our lives, we will live a much better existence and the peace of God will surround us at all times. Hallelujah.