A Big Freakin’ Deal

Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud,
but humility comes before honor.  — Proverbs 18:12 (NIV)
A list came out this morning.  It was in my twitter feed.  It’s a list of 8 church leaders who are under the radar.   I wasn’t on it.  Why not?  I am certainly under the radar.  I’m under the radar, under sonar, underground, under a rock.  I’m under everything.  I’m also prideful.
I want to be a big freakin’ deal!  I want people to listen to my sermons and think, “He’s a great preacher!”  I want people to read my blog and think, “He’s a great writer!”  I want people to notice me!  This isn’t a new phenomenon, either.  When I went to college at Indiana State to study acting, I wanted to go to Hollywood and be the next Tom Cruise.  I wanted to be a famous (and rich) actor.  I wanted to be a big freakin’ deal!
God brought something to mind as I was thinking about this blog post this morning.  Rather than being a big freakin’ deal in the eyes of the world or other Christians or the congregation where I pastor, I need to be a big freakin’ deal to those who matter most.  I need to be a big freakin’ deal to my wife by showing her the kind of love she deserves and being the kind of husband she needs me to be.  I need to be a big freakin’ deal to my son by loving him unconditionally and raising him to know Jesus as his Savior and Lord.  He needs me to be the best daddy to him and that is a big freakin’ deal.
I need a big ol’ tablespoonful of humility this morning.  It doesn’t matter if my name is on a list of church leaders who are under the radar.  My name is on a list of far greater importance.  My name is listed in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Praise be to God and His Son, Jesus Christ.  Thank You, Father, for this dose of humility and for a Tuesday morning reality check.  Help me be more humble today.

Do Everything In Love

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.  Do everything in love. — 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NIV)

Paul, in his concluding remarks to the Corinthians in his first letter, gives short, simple commands.

  • Be on your guard
  • Stand firm in the faith
  • Be men of courage
  • Be strong
  • Do everything in love

He sums things up so well and succinctly.  This is part of what it means to be a Christian.  “Be on your guard against false doctrine and teachings.”  “Stand firm in the faith until Christ returns.  No matter what happens, stay faithful until death!”  “Be courageous for God is with you.  Do not let any opportunity to testify to Christ’s death and resurrection pass you by.”  “Be strong in the Lord.  Do not mistake meekness for weakness.”  “Do everything in love.  Remember what I just wrote to you: ‘the greatest of these is love.'”

I want to focus for a moment on the verse 14 — “Do everything in love.”  This is a great way to check our thoughts, words and deeds.  “Am I able to do, say or think this in love?  Will these thoughts, words or actions demonstrate love for others or love for God?  Will God be revealed in this?”  Can you lovingly flip that guy off in traffic?  Can you, in love, complain about or joke about your spouse to your co-workers or friends?  Can you, in love, cheat your company out of 10 extra minutes on your break?  Can you lovingly walk out on your family?  We are called to “do everything in love”.  Let us take 2 seconds to ask ourselves this question today: “Will this demonstrate the love of Christ?”  If not, DON’T DO IT!  If it will, then by all means, proceed.


The Secret Is Rest

Why do you work?  Why do you get up every morning (or evening, depending on your situation) and go somewhere to earn a living?  Why do you labor for someone else for 30-40 years to earn a paycheck?  Solomon said that it is because of “one person’s envy of another” (Ecclesiastes 4:4, NIV).  In other words, it is because we want what others possess.  Why do we have to have the latest and greatest and the new and improved?  It is because your relative or neighbor or co-worker has it!  Obviously there are things we need to purchase regularly (deodorant is a great example) in order to function in our daily lives.  What about the wants versus the needs?  It is when we break our backs for the wants that Solomon looks at us and says:

Better one handful with tranquility
    than two handfuls with toil
    and chasing after the wind.​ – Ecclesiastes 4:6, (NIV)​

It is better, he says, to live a life of peace and tranquility than to stress ourselves out in so many ways just to have more and to keep up with the Joneses.
God rested on the seventh day from all of His labors.  In our day and age, we believe that we cannot rest for even a moment or else someone will get ahead of us.  We believe this lie.  So we work overtime.  We skip vacations.  We work on vacation (guilty as charged) and we never do what God commanded His people to do and that is rest.  Oh how we need rest!  We need to rest our weary bodies and our weary minds.  We need to rest emotionally and spiritually.  We need to sit and be still and know our God.  Busyness only leads to more busyness and weariness.  Jesus says to come to Him when we are weary and burdened.  The secret to a happy and contented life is not to labor more, but to rest in the Lord.  He will take care of you and your needs.  He can handle the stresses of this life.  He can provide for you and your family.  This is not meant to be an excuse for laziness, but rather a call to rest.  For working our fingers to the bone, according to Solomon, is as useless as chasing the wind.

Ecclesiastes 4:4-6 (NIV)

And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Fools fold their hands
    and ruin themselves.
Better one handful with tranquility
    than two handfuls with toil
    and chasing after the wind.


Jesus Hears The Oppressed

Injustice is everywhere.  All over the world people suffer at the hands of their oppressors.  Nations are ruled by tyrannical dictators who oppress their people. The wealthy oppress those who labor for them.  Girls are kidnapped and sold into slavery as we hear horror stories of human trafficking.  People are oppressed because of the color of their skin or because of their gender.  Christians are persecuted and put to death because of their faith.  Solomon took note of the plight of those who were oppressed:

I saw the tears of the oppressed—
    and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors—
    and they have no comforter.​ – Ecclesiastes 4:1b (NIV)​

Notice that he repeats the phrase, “…and they have no comforter.”  He does this for emphasis.  In his day there was no one who would side with the oppressed, let alone comfort them in their misery.  Solomon says that the oppressed would have been better off never born than to experience the evil in our world.  Do the oppressed have an advocate?
I believe that God hears the cries of the oppressed and those who suffer at the hands of the unjust.  Psalm 9:9 (NIV) says:

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

Proverbs 3:4 (NIV) says:

He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.

Jesus said, at the outset of His ministry:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”​ – Luke 4:18-19 (NIV)​

If you are oppressed and if you feel the weight of injustice upon your shoulders, take heart.  There is One who sides with you.  There is One who came to set the oppressed free.  His name is Jesus and He cares for you and your situation.  Ultimately, He came to set you free from the oppression of sin by offering you salvation by God’s grace through faith in Him.  He cares about you and what you’re going through.  Turn to the Lord for protection and freedom.  He can set you free from the bonds of oppression and injustice.  Jesus cares for the oppressed and when He returns, He will deal with those who have oppressed the poor and downtrodden.  He will have the final say when it comes to injustice.

Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 (NIV)

Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun:

I saw the tears of the oppressed—
    and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors—
    and they have no comforter.
And I declared that the dead,
    who had already died,
are happier than the living,
    who are still alive.
But better than both
    is the one who has never been born,
who has not seen the evil
    that is done under the sun.


I Love Jesus So I Obey Him

The message from Griffith First Christian Church in Griffith, Indiana from March 22, 2015.


True Righteousness

“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven”  (Matthew 5:20, NIV).

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness”  (Matthew 23:27-28, NIV).

I went to Haiti in 1996 on a short-term mission trip.  One of the things I remember about the trip was the tombs.  They were these elaborate structures that were quite striking and beautiful in a way.  They were decorated with the finest adornments.  Sometimes they were nicer than the homes in which the Haitians lived.  Yet these beautiful structures were filled with death and decay.  Such beauty on the outside, but so ugly on the inside.

It must have sounded quite shocking to hear Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount call people to a higher standard of righteousness than that of the Pharisees!  On the outside, the Pharisees looked like the most righteous dudes on the block.  They did all the right things.  They said the right words.  They were the “Holy Joes” of their day.  They had a problem, though.  Jesus knew their hearts.  He knew that even though they had all this outward righteousness that their hearts were full of wickedness and filth.  They appeared to love God, but in reality they only loved themselves.

It’s the heart that matters most.  Being declared right with God is a matter of the heart, not a matter of outward appearances.  Right actions and behavior that flow from a heart that desires approval and applause from people may look good on the outside, but it is putrid in God’s eyes.  Right actions and attitudes that come from a heart that truly desires to love and please God do exactly that.  They please the Lord.  May our righteousness come from penitent and grateful hearts and not from a desire to be noticed and lauded by those around us.


Standing Your Ground

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.  Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:10-17 (NLT, emphasis added)

We are engaged in a spiritual battle every day of our lives.  We have an enemy who is crafty, dangerous and deadly.  And defeated.  The enemy is not all-powerful.  The enemy is not-all knowing.  We are not helpless and hopeless against this enemy of ours.  God has given us spiritual armor to protect us and a powerful weapon with which to attack!  We are not in a constant state of retreat.  We will never give up or surrender!  God has given us all we need to stand our ground.  When you feel the enemy coming at you, don’t give in to temptation.  Don’t focus on your weaknesses.  Remember God’s power and His strength in your life.  We can overcome the enemy!  We can overcome temptation!  We have the power of the armor of God to help us to stand!


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