2 Corinthians Study: Boast in Weakness

What does God want me to do with my money? How should I respond to someone who has wronged me? What is the purpose of suffering and hardships? Can’t I boast a little bit? These are some of the questions you will discover as you read through 2 Corinthians.

Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church has a different flavor than the first. It is more personal and pastoral. You see Paul roll up his sleeves and wear his emotions on them. Paul loves the church and so should we. How can we love the church despite all its people problems? Paul gives us practical insights. There is something for everyone. Just take a look at this 2 Corinthians Study: Boast in Weakness

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backwards boasting

backwards boasting

The biggest problem in my life and ministry is me. And one of my biggest problem among many is my gravitation toward self-defense or self-justification. I have an inner defense attorney from the firm of Flesh & Associates who is always there challenging the case in my favor. Well, not exactly for my favor. I am grateful for the Spirits work in me in this area, but I still have a long way to go.

When was the last time you defended yourself? Why did you feel the need to do it? Often times one is feels the need to defend themselves when confronted or attempting to protect an opinion or reputation.

Ironically, in 2 Corinthians 10-11, Paul is in the middle of defending himself and his ministry. Why does Paul feel the need to defend himself? What could be such a big deal that he feels the need to protect his reputation? Well, some in Corinth are discrediting him as an apostle. They say he is tough on paper, but in person he appears weak and doesn’t speak quite like the pros. Paul not only defends his ministry, but in doing so he defends the gospel message. It’s a big deal because he is protecting the reputation of Christ.

To defend himself Paul does a little boasting (v.1). Doesn’t that sound backward for Paul? Shouldn’t he turn the other cheek or be more humble? Instead Paul sees it is necessary to exercise “a little foolishness.”

Why is boasting foolish? It is foolish because no one likes listening to a boaster. Boasters are so full of themselves (show Packer shirt). If we do like people who boast, how much does God like it?

  • “Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches,” (Jeremiah 9:23)
  • “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” (Proverbs 27:1)
  • “Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.” (Proverbs 25:14)
  • “These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.” (Jude 1:16)
  • “The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” …For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:11-12, 14b)

God doesn’t like boasters. So why is Paul stooping to that level? Now to be fair, boasting was anathema to Paul too, but he engages in it to show the church just how foolish it is and how foolish his opponents are. Here are three justified boasts of Paul.

1.  As a father of the Bride, he is jealous for the church’s purity (vs.2-4).

What is the responsibility of the father of the bride? One of the most emotional moments for me when I married Sarah was the moment when the doors in the back of the church opened and my wife dressed in a white dressed walked down between our friends and family who were standing all looking at her. I was speechless. As so was her father. He was walking his daughter to me. For 27 years, he had been teaching her, giving her counsel and presented her to me as a pure bride.

How does Paul take his responsibility seriously as father of the church at Corinth? Paul, knew just how vulnerable the church was (vs.2-4). Like a faithful father he has boasted in his daughter and wants to keep the her pure and protect her from other lovers (deceivers) and present her not to just any man but the Son of Man, the Blessed Bride Groom.

Paul was properly jealous about this. He had paternal jealously handed down from another Father. It is said that “Human jealousy is a vice, but to share divine jealousy is a virtue.” Our God is a jealous God. He is jealous for the truth. He doesn’t like people adding or subtracting things from the message of Jesus, the work of the Spirit, or the Gospel. If God and Paul are jealous for these things, so must we.

2.  As a faithful apostle, he compares himself to the super-apostles (vs. 5-15).

Here Paul takes the opportunity to boast in his authority. Remember, it is not his own authority, but an authority given to him from Jesus. And some were challenging his authority. Paul sarcastically refers to them as Super-apostles (v.5) because they made themselves bigger than Paul. We don’t know much about these super-apostles other than that they were skilled speakers and were paid well for their skills. I am sure they also had capes and sidekicks too.

How does Paul compare himself to the super-apostles? (v.6) First, he admits he is not a skilled speak. He doesn’t wow the crowds like the Greco-Roman speakers who were suave, spoke with a swagger, yet were synthetic. Second, he admits he excels in knowledge. In other words he says the main criteria you need to be a good preacher is a knowledge of God. This knowledge made him a powerful and persuasive preacher.

Third, Paul explains that he came to Corinth free of charge (vs.7-11). Paul didn’t take speakers fees like the skilled speakers or professional philosophers. Not that this is wrong, but it can be a temptation. Paul instead says he received support from Philippi and other churches in Macedonia so he didn’t have to burden to the church in Corinth. People misinterpreted this as if Paul was not charging for his services as a self-admission that he was a low caliber speaker and his message wasn’t worth much. That he gave away the gospel because no one would pay to he it, when he gave it freely as proof he loved them.

Paul will switch his tone from sarcastic to serious as he now calls these super-apostles false prophets, deceitful workers (vs.12-15). Why would he use such harsh terms? These super-apostles are changing Jesus, the Spirits work and the gospel message for their profit. That gives Paul grounds to boast. What Paul boasts in is the faithful, self-sacrificing efforts made on behalf of the gospel ministry in Corinth to the degree that his example serves to expose false apostles as what they really are, ministers of Satan.

This passage challenges all who take money and serve the name of Jesus. I must ask myself the question, do I consider the financial gain before you consider the glory of the Name? This is a real temptation. Remember, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (cf. 8:9).

3.  As a follower of Christ, he has counted the cost and carries his cross (16-33)

Paul boasts to prove a point to boasters, “Look, isn’t boasting really foolish?” If Paul must be forced to boast, it will not be in the things that are impressive from a human standpoint. Rather, he will boast in those things that put him in such a vulnerable situation that he has to depend utterly upon God. He takes great lengths to share all that happened to him for the sake of the name of Christ (vs.16-33).

Paul answers the question, When is foolish boasting acceptable? “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (10:17; cf. Jer. 9:23-24). Nothing, absolutely nothing trumps the Lord. It doesn’t matter what I say about myself, it’s what I say about God. It’s the essence of backward boasting. I am nothing. God is everything. When the foolish boasting is in favor of Jesus and the gospel message it is sometimes acceptable.

How might this chapter be applicable to your life and ministry? Can you embrace your weaknesses? Will you boast in your weaknesses? The answer to that question has everything to do with the authenticity of the gospel and the church and its mission.

Jesus eats with sinners

bar

Most religious people would not catch themselves in a biker bar or talking with pimps and prostitutes, but when reading through the Gospels we catch Jesus talking to these kinds of people in these kinds of places often. Why does Jesus hang with sinners? Well, in Luke 5:27-32, Jesus eats with a tax collector and his companions, and it is here you get the answer.

What’s with the tax collector?

I-love-tax-collectorsIn Jesus day, tax collectors were hated. Some things don’t change! They were especially hated then because Israel was under Roman oppression. Certain Jews got the job of collecting taxes for Rome. They were viewed as a traitor or enemy who cheated their own people to get rich. For that reason, they were commonly avoided or the punchline of many bad jokes.

Who are the “tax collectors” in your life? Think of the person you avoid or talk bad about. Is it your beer drinking neighbor who parties too loudly, even on weeknights? Is it girl who is known by her second-rate reputation at your office. Is it the politician you love to bash?

Levi is a tax collector. He’s the guy you love to hate. But he’s also the guy Jesus loves to love. Jesus finds him. He doesn’t avoid him like someone with a virus. He finds him at the tax office counting his coins. Jesus doesn’t come in and blast his character or belittle his profession. He simply says a simple statement expecting a simple answer, “Follow Me.” Amazingly, Levi leaves everything and follows Jesus.

Who’s sick?

Levi’s life changed the day Jesus intersected him at his office. He’s so excited he throw a party. Since tax collectors don’t have many friend their friends are usually other tax collectors. The guest of honor at Levi’s party is Jesus.

Word spread faster than a British tabloid. The religious leaders came to Jesus’ disciples with their list of gripes and complaints. As the Pharisees see it, Jesus is in a lose-lose situation. Sinners are following Him. But Jesus sees it as a win-win. Sinners are following Him. Jesus defends Himself by saying, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” (5:31) What did Jesus mean by this?

Jesus directs his words towards the religious leaders. They are (spiritually) sick and don’t even know it. They are like a man who will not admit that he is sick and refuses go to a doctor for help. In their pride, they will suffer defiantly, if not die. Jesus came to bring healing our sin sickness that leads to death. Pride leads to death, but humility leads to the cross.

Will you repent?

Jesus follows up his first statement by saying, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentence.” (5:32; cf. 13:3-5; 15:10; 24:47; Mark 1:15; Acts 5:31) He’s not called to the righteous because they don’t think they have a need for Christ (when they really do!).

Jesus is called to the sinner who knows he is in need of Christ (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15) and humble enough to come to Him for a life transformation. To repent is to humbly turn away from your sin and your self-righteousness and turn towards Jesus and His righteousness. It’s a life-transforming turn.

Do you see the contrast between Levi’s response to Jesus and the religious leaders response to Jesus? Levi follows immediately and throws Jesus a feast. The religious leader grumble, question, and judge. Levi wants Jesus to transform him, but the religious people want Jesus to conform to them. Levi has an attitude of repentance, while the religious leaders think they have no need for repentance. The religious leaders measure their goodness among themselves, while Levi measures His goodness against Jesus. The religious leaders follow their code of conduct, while Levi simply follows Jesus. Being a follower of Christ is much different than being a religious person.

follower of Jesus vs religious person

A good question to ask yourself when reading this text is, Who do I respond like more often Levi or the Pharisee? If I were honest, I would have to say I respond more like the Pharisee. How about you?

So how do I change and love like Jesus loves? First, I must remember I was once like the tax collector to God. I lived the most unlovely life yet I was unconditionally loved by Him. I was infected by the most destructive disease known to man, sin.  I can love my enemies because I was once God’s enemy and He loved me.

Second, repent and run to Jesus Christ. Repentance is your only means of healing. Repent of your pride, repent of hoarding God’s grace, and repent of your hateful attitude towards the tax collectors in your life. When you repent don’t expect life or loving others easier. Sometimes it can be harder. Jesus got Himself killed because of the way He ate.

Third, with the remaining days of your life make it my aim to follow Him, which means eating with sinners too. Extend to all the life-transforming eternity-giving message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. No one, including you or the tax collectors in your life, are too sinful to enjoy the pleasure of sitting at Jesus’ table.

Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices

SATAN’S DEVICES TO DRAW THE SOUL TO SIN

  1. By presenting the bait and hiding the hook [4 remedies]
  2. By painting sin with virtue’s colors [4remedies]
  3. By the extenuating and lessening of sin [7 remedies]
  4. By showing to the soul the best men’s sins and by hiding from the soul their virtues, their sorrows, and their repentance [3 remedies]
  5. By presenting God to the soul as One made up all of mercy [5 remedies]
  6. By persuading the soul that repentance is easy and that therefore the soul need not scruple about sinning [6 remedies]
  7. By making the soul bold to venture upon the occasions of sin [2 remedies]
  8. By representing to the soul the outward mercies enjoyed by men walking in sin, and their freedom from outward miseries [8 remedies]
  9. By presenting to the soul the crosses, losses, sorrows and sufferings that daily attend those who walk in the ways of holiness [7 remedies]
  10. By causing saints to compare themselves and their ways with those reputed to be worse than themselves [3 remedies]
  11. By polluting the souls and judgments of men with dangerous errors that lead to looseness and wickedness [7 remedies]
  12. By leading men to choose wicked company [4 remedies]

SATAN’S DEVICES TO KEEP SOULS FROM HOLY DUTIES, TO HINDER SOULS IN HOLY SERVICES, TO KEEP THEM OFF FROM RELIGIOUS PERFORMANCES

  1. By presenting the world in such a garb as to ensnare the soul [7 remedies]
  2. By presenting to the soul the dangers, losses and sufferings that accompany the performance of certain religious duties [5 remedies]
  3. By presenting to the soul the difficulty of performing religious duties [5 remedies]
  4. By causing saints to draw false inferences from the blessed and glorious things that Christ has done [5 remedies]
  5. By presenting to view the fewness and poverty of those who hold to religious practices [6 remedies]
  6. By showing saints that the majority of men make light of God’s ways and walk in the ways of their own hearts [3 remedies]
  7. By casting in vain thoughts while the soul is seeking God or waiting on God [7 remedies]
  8. By tempting Christians to rest in their performances [4 remedies]

SATAN’S DEVICES TO KEEP SAINTS IN A SAD, DOUBTING, QUESTIONING AND UNCOMFORTABLE CONDITION

  1. By causing saints to remember their sins more than their Savior, yes, even to forget and neglect their Savior [6 remedies]
  2. By causing saints to make false definitions of their graces [4 remedies]
  3. By causing saints to make false inferences from the cross actings of Providence [4 remedies]
  4. By suggesting to saints that their graces are not true, but counterfeit [2 remedies]
  5. By suggesting to saints that the conflict that is in them is found also in hypocrites and profane souls [6 remedies]
  6. By suggesting to the saint who has lost joy and comfort that his state is not good [5 remedies]
  7. By reminding the saint of his frequent relapses into sin formerly repented of and prayed against [6 remedies]
  8. By persuading saints that their state is not good nor their graces sound [3 remedies]

SATAN’S DEVICES TO DESTROY AND ENSNARE ALL SORTS AND RANKS OF MEN IN THE WORLD DEVICES AGAINST THE GREAT AND HONORABLE OF THE EARTH


  1. By causing them to seek greatness, position, riches and security [6 remedies]
  2. By causing them to act against the people of the Most High [5 remedies]

DEVICE AGAINST THE LEARNED AND THE WISE

By moving them to pride themselves on their parts and abilities, and to despise men of greater grace but inferior abilities [4 remedies]

DEVICE AGAINST THE SAINTS

By dividing them and causing them to ‘bite and devour one another.’ [12 remedies]

DEVICE AGAINST POOR AND IGNORANT SOULS

By causing them to affect ignorance and to neglect and despise the means of knowledge [4 remedies]

FIVE MORE OF SATAN’S DEVICES

  1. 
By suggesting to men the greatness and vileness of their sins [8 Remedies]
  2. By suggesting to sinners their unworthiness [4 Remedies]
  3. By suggesting to sinners their want of certain preparations and qualifications [3 Remedies]
  4. By suggesting to sinners that Christ Is unwilling to save them [6 Remedies]
  5. By causing sinners to give more attention to the secret decrees and counsels of God than to their own duty [2 Remedies]

Adapted from Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks. [download PDF] It’s time to read a classic book. There is nothing like an old Puritan book from the 1600’s!.

paying the price of pride

What makes Christianity different that all other religions? It’s grace. A single word captures the difference between Christianity and all other religions. Grace.

Every other religion allows me to pay at least something for the tow. And if I pay anything at all then pride will wolf it down and the vines will begin to grow with a terrible ferocity. All my pride needs is credit for a single good thing. If I take credit for seeking God then my pride lives. But Christianity allows nothing of the sort. It is the shepherd who seeks the sheep. It is the sheep who is lost and hopeless and helpless. So it is the cross or it is nothing at all. That is why the cross is death before it it life. Even with Jesus it was the cross and only then the resurrection. Grace makes it the same for us.

It is true that pride is inflation of the soul then the only time we are the size of our true self is when we are devoid of pride.

Grace is the kryptonite to pride.

Taken from Red Like Blood by Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington. Shepherds Press, Wapwallopen, PA. 2011. 80-81.

thumb licks [7.7.11]

God’s Beautiful, Holy, Good—and Crushing—Law

The apostle Paul, a Jewish rabbi who had extensive respect for and acquaintance with God’s law (Acts 22:3) had some very shocking thoughts about it once he came to faith in Christ. Although he heartily agreed that it was “holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12), and although he knew the beautiful nature of God’s law, he also knew that the law could never bring sinners to life because no one could obey it. He confessed that all his obedience (and it was extensive) had no more value than a pile of manure (Phil. 3:8). He wrote: “By works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight.” (Rom. 3:20) What then? Are we Jews [who have the written law] any better off [than Gentiles who didn’t]?

Hijacked by the Gospel

While studying Galatians 1:11-24, I am struck once again with how utterly supreme God’s loving plans are for us in Christ. Paul, captured always by the vision of the original capturing vision of Jesus on the Damascus road, appeals again to the singular transforming power of the gospel by appealing to the way it powerfully transformed him. He was headed one direction, resting in his own sovereignty over his life. But the One who had set Paul apart before his life story even began called him in grace and was pleased to reveal the Son to him (Gal. 1:15-16). His life was never the same. Paul was writing his own life story, but Jesus stole his pen… He got hijacked by the gospel.

Find Out Right Now Whether You Have a Pride Problem

When’s the last time you crept out of your house to worship at the feet of a sculpture created in your own image?  Never, right?  While you probably haven’t done that, it’s likely that you’ve asserted your claim to the title of “Center of the Universe” in other, sometimes subtler, ways. Ever honk at another car while driving because you thought it was slowing you down?  Ever neglect a household responsibility because you thought someone else ought to do it?  Ever dwell on a compliment someone paid you? If we take an honest look at our lives, we’re likely to find evidence of pride under every rock and around every corner.

Worship God by Serving the Poor

The words in chapter 58 of the book of Isaiah have affected me for years. In that Scripture, God tells us the Father sees our relationship with the poor (or lack of it) as something serious. It is impossible to serve God with all our hearts and at the same time miss out on God’s call to care for the needy. The Scriptures say the way we care for the poor is tantamount to the way we see God. The prophet makes it clear that we must have a relationship with the poor if we hope to please God with our lives. 

But in today’s church, most of us don’t know a single person who is needy. How can we obey God if we aren’t connecting with the poor on a regular basis? We can’t. 

Something needs to change. We need to hear the call of God to those in need.

Texting Teens: Typing Replaces Talking [INFOGRAPHIC]

Has texting taken over as the primary form of communication for today’s teens? We found our answer with this Infographic from Lab 42, which polled 500 social-networking Americans aged 13 to 21.

How Important is the Bible?

babel

There is a funny joke I heard from a small African man a few years ago. With seriousness in his voice and face he asked, “What do you call a man who speaks three languages?” I responded, “Tri-lingual.” Then he asked, “What do you call a man who speaks two languages?”  I was quick to respond, “Bi-lingual.” And then he asked, “What do you call a man who speaks one language?” I began to say, “mono…,” but he chirped in with a smile on his face and laugh in his gut, “No, no, my friend, a person who speaks one language is called an American.” We both laughed. Now the African man sharing with me this joke could speak over five languages fluently.

Today, in our world, there are between 3,000 to 10,000 different spoken languages. According to Wycliffe Bible Translators there are over 6,800 language groups. Where did all these languages originate? Why so many languages? Why so many boundaries on the map? Why so many conflicts between culture and races? Why not one language, nation, culture, or dictionary? Wouldn’t life and communication be easier? We will tackle these questions and more important questions from Genesis 10-11.

How does The Tower of Babel fit within the story of the Bible, God and humanity? [Genesis 10:1-11:1]

Genesis 10 opens with another lengthy genealogy [cf. Genesis 5; 11:10-26; Adam to Abraham], which breaking down into the descendants of Noah’s three sons, Japheth, Shem, and Ham. This is more than a biblical phonebook, but a tracking of the godly and ungodly patriarchs [male headship] from whom all people groups, languages, and nations descended. These are people like us who inhabit the earth. These people were sinful even after the flood. There was the example of Noah’s sin [9:20-29] and now, the example of corporate sin [11:1-9]. The story of Babel calls us to long for redemption.

Genesis 11:1-2 says, “Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated east, they found a plain in the lad of Shinar and settled there.” In these verses are two important items to note. First, the world became monolingual. Everybody spoke the same language, the same framework of communication, the same dictionary definitions, and a unified identity. Language is important to God. He spoke first, He speaks through His Son the Word made flesh, and He gives His creation the ability to speak, communicate and relate.

Second, the concept of going east corresponded with going farther and farther from God. For example, when Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden they went eastward [3:24]. When Cain sinned he wandered east of Eden [4:7]. People move east. When people who go eastward in Genesis tthey run away from God [i.e. Eden; paradise] and into ruin [i.e. Sodom and Ninevah; eastward cities].

What is sinful about building a tower in the city of Babel? [Genesis 11:2-4]

There is nothing wrong with building a tower, a city, or a tall structure in a city. Babel [aka: Babylon] is described as an advanced intellectual and architectural city not unlike most in our own day where regular people simply seek to build a secular society apart from God [i.e. NYC, Dubai, London, Rio, etc.]. The story does not mention any particularly heinous sins that the Babylonians committed, but what is sinful is their motivation for building the city and tower. In these view short verses we see the sinful hearts of people:

First, it is sinful for people to crave to make their name great [11:4]. The people of Babel desire to spread the fame of their name rather than spreading God’s name. This was the same problem for Adam and Eve in the Garden [3:5-6], and it is the same problem you have [James 3:16]. Followers of Christ make their Masters look good. Make great the name of God! To give glory to God is to make Him look good!

Second, it is sinful for people to crave to live against the creation mandate [11:4, cf. 1:26-31; 9:1,7]. God commands His people in the Creation and the Covenant with Noah to be fruitful, to multiply, to have dominion, and to scatter across the earth. However, in direct opposition to those commands the people here purpose to stay put, gather together, and move up. This may be the first great city in the history of the world, but its purpose was to stand against all other people and God as a sort of secular seat of authority on the earth. They were proud and self-centered. God humbles the proud.

Third, it is also sinful for people to crave to get to Heaven without God. The people seek to build a tower in the heavens [i.e. heaven/kingdom on earth]. This is the same wicked logic beneath every false religion and cult [cf. Acts 4:12]—man works really hard to gain acceptance with God. The Bible is clear it is not by man’s work, but through the gracious work of Christ you go to heaven [Ephesians 2:8-10].

What is God’s response to man’s plan? [Genesis 11:5-9]

Structure of Babel Narrative
In the climax of the narrative God “comes down” [11:5, 7] to see the tower the “children of man are making.” These people think they are gigantic, but God thinks they are minuscule [cf. Psalm 2:1-6]. God is not impressed and judges their small insignificant project. You see, God made the universe, time, man, and all things. Man can create because God taught him how. God lets them build for a little bit. However, God confuses their language [11:7, 9] and scatters them over the face of the earth [11:8].

Ironically, the scattering of the people and confusing of the languages were two of the primary things these people were seeking to prevent from happening in the first place. The name Babel is humorously parallel to our English word babble, which is exactly what their communication sounded like once God confused their language [i.e. babbling on and on]. They could no longer understand one another, so they walk away from the job. Babel wanted a name, heavenly glory, and absolute power, which corrupt absolutely. God made sure that they got none of it. God loves; therefore, He saves them from themselves.

How do I get from Babel to Jesus?

First, the genealogy leads directly to Jesus Christ [11:10ff, cf. Luke 3:23-38]. Second, God disorders the language of the people to stop them from glorifying themselves, but reorders the language of the people so he can glorify his Son [Acts 2:1-13; John 16:14]. Third, the combination of judgment and mercy at Babel points to the fulfillment of judgment and mercy at the cross [Isaiah 53:6]. Fourth, the divine response at Babel solves a behavior problem, but we need the work of Jesus Christ to fix our heart problem [Ezekiel 36:26-27].

Like the fall of Adam and drunken-fall of Noah, Babel is yet another fall of man. To overcome the sin problem people do not turn to God, rather they rely on one another and place their hope in military might, technological advancement, and the building of a good and decent society. What man longs for is eternity, which cannot be had on this earth now. Man needs redemption to remedy man’s sin problem. Jesus is the Redeemer and solution for man eternal need. His kingdom one day will come down to earth and Jesus will be the King of Great Zion. Jesus will sit on His high throne. Around Him will be gather people from every nation and language praising His glorious name with one voice. Do you know Him?

get off your pedestal

This weekend I graduated from Faith Bible Seminary with a Master of Divinity. Sounds important, eh? No, I am not more divine! It was quiet the accomplishment 6-years in the making. I started taking classes in 2004 at BBS and finish the last 3 years at FSB. I am grateful for the spiritual growth from digging deep into God’s Word. However, the more that I study God’s Word the more I have come to realize and appreciate that there is a whole lot more to know about God and His Word. I have just touched the base of the mountain of God’s glory in His Word. I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life unpacking and applying His Truth to my life.

Now it could be really easy to sit on top of my puny pedestal boasting and bragging about my brains, brawn and bucks. Sure I might have expanded my brain since pre-school with books, papers, and higher education, but that doesn’t give me the right to flex those intellectual muscles [personally, I think they are quite flabby].

What does it mean to brag and boast? To think you are above others in attitude and action. Sure you may have Bucks, Brains or Braun, but compared to whom? Where is the ultimate source of all things? What about boasting in God?

This is a reason why most rap music drives me bananas. Some rap artists would say boasting about yourself is built into rap. It’s common for a rap artist to talk up his skills, his money, or his sexual conquests. Even some Christian rappers jump on the boasting bandwagon. However, there is some radical rap that rocks the name of Christ:

What is a boaster and bragger to do? Turn boasting about your own greatness into boasting about God’s greatness: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord” [2 Corinthians 10:17]. Paul even went as far as to boast in how weak he was, because he knew God’s strength could fill in for his own failure [2 Corinthians 12:5].

I can’t claim bragging rights about everything I’ve done, am doing, or will do in my life [cf. Philippians 3:1-11]. Any accomplishment I claim must give glory to the God who is the source. Compared to God I see my imperfection and His perfection. Compared to God I see His holiness and my need for forgiveness. Compared to God I can only claim bragging rights about God. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:29-31: “It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written [in Jeremiah 9:24]: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

We see in these three short verses that God’s source of any significant spiritual change. “It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus.” God Himself is the means and motivation for our salvation. He has claimed me, He called me, He comforted me, and by the faith “in Christ” He has given me salvation.

Now the Corinthians Paul was writing to were know for their boasting in wisdom. The Corinthians were consumed with wisdom, which they seemed to have equated with their salvation. However, Paul poo-poo’s their pride party by repeatedly emphasizing that Jesus Christ is God’s wisdom. If you love wisdom, you will love Jesus. Why? Because in Christ, God gives us “righteousness, holiness and redemption.”

In those three words [righteousness, holiness, and redemption], God has given us in Christ a reason to boast. First, righteousness is a legal metaphor meaning in Christ believers have been declared innocent of sin. Second, holiness is a religious metaphor meaning that in Christ believers are been set apart like God. Third, redemption is a marketplace metaphor meaning that in Christ He has purchased my freedom from the power of sin.

When I look at all that God has done for me in Christ I am awed. And so should our response be, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” I have nothing to boast about before God, except what God has done for us in Christ. He is the source of all my bucks, brains and brawn. Only God is the omnipotent and omniscient Creator. He is the means, source and end of all things [cf. Romans 11:36].

“Let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.” – Jeremiah 9:24

Talented-R-Us

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We live in a reality-TV-crazy culture that is tenacious about flaunting personal talent. From a young age we are taught that flaunting our Talent Show skills are normal. It translates to adults with shows like American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, America’s Got Talent and a plethora of other with people seeking to get their fifteen minutes. We are talent freaks. People what to be know for the talents. To shine in their talents to the glory of the fan-filled audiences.

We were made to worship. We crave to exude excellence. This is not a bad thing. We are born with the built in radar seeking someone or something to worship. The problem is that we often worship the creation rather than the Creator (cf. Rom.1:18ff). In other words we exchange the worship of God for idols. Idols are not necessarily carved images you see people in the aborigine jungles worship, it can be attitudes rooted within our hearts.

The question is where do our talents come from? The Bible says that all of our abilities and giftedness comes from God (Rom.12 & 1 Cor.12). The glory and the credit for our talent must go to God. This is more than after an accomplishment or acclaim saying, “I would like to thank God,” but a lifestyle of channeling the worship of the gifted talent to Giver of the talent. We are talented people because God created us with amazing abilities that reflect the character of His creative image.

pride: a beast in hiding

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Pride. It is a real beast that hides in the darkness of our mind waiting to devour us from within. Many do not know the telltale signs they are suffering from the sly and stealthy beast of pride. Consider the following list of hidden forms of pride:

1. Insecurity. Insecurity is the root of many unhealthy and ungodly behaviors. It provokes us to want the lavish praise and attention of others. Pride is often motivated by one’s unmet need for self-worth. Focusing on the worth of Christ and security in Christ is a must to avoid pride.

2. Got to play the trump card. Do you know someone who has a hard time being wrong? This is a symptom of pride (Galatians 6:3). A person who needs to be right has an exalted view in themselves and think they are too-sexy-for-their-shirt. In religious circles, the need to be right is frequently said through statements like ‘God told me’ or ‘God showed me’, which are simply prideful trump cards.

3. In a state of arguing. Those who argue their point of view, especially to those in authority over them, are allowing pride to be their pet beast. At the root of their argument is a belief that they are right and the other is wrong, period, argument done [like a turkey at Thanksgiving]. It is sometimes appropriate to advocate for a point of view or position, but there is a thing called tact.

4. More invested in being heard than in hearing. When one develops a pattern of needing others to listen to them rather than first hearing others, pride is a motivating factor. I’m going to bust out in one of my most favorite raps, “Alright, stop, calibrate and listen… ” [Vanilla Ice] Listen, hear, it is not a brand new invention, rather a humble way to communicate with other human beings.

5. Blowing up and clamming up. Ungodly anger is pride. In anger that blows or clams one will often justify their position and blame another for the wrongdoing. Justification of self leads to denial of our own complicity or wrongdoing. Deal with your anger and quit blaming others for it.

6. Irritability and impatience. The root of impatience in my life is pride. When we are unable to be patient with another and are irritated, it demonstrates a haughty view of self. “My time and talents are not worth your investment.” We feel that our views, time or needs are more important than the other persons.

7. Lack of submissive attitude. Submission is the voluntary placement of oneself under the influence, control or authority of another. Pride says, “I can do it better than they can. If I were in charge things would be different.” Maybe so. Yet when one pledges their submission to you or another, yet is critical or bucking that authority, then pride is in coming out of hiding [like words about our President].

8. Who do you think you are–attitude. Have you ever worked or lived with someone who won’t receive any negative or corrective feedback? This is pride. Were Adam and Eve were confronted by God in the garden they passed the blame-buck. Own up to confrontation and learn from it.

9. Receiving correction but do not changing. Some receive correction and say thank you for the feedback, but never change. This too is pride. The individual is placating and people-pleasing, nodding their head and telling you what you wanted to hear but not really taking the feedback to heart. Ones ride with prevent them from truly changing.

10. Boast about your badges. A good friend of mine requires everyone to call him ‘Mr.’, saying that he has deservedly earned the title. Demanding that others call you ‘doctor’ or ‘pastor’ or ‘sir’ is usually a way of making you ‘one up’ and them ‘one down’. This shade of pride hungers for approval and starves for recognition, “Hey, look at me dad? Look at me son? Look at my long list of credentials, crowns, coronations…” Pride fuels the requirement to respect the badge.

11. Stubbornness. Pride exerts one’s own will and is not easily persuaded, difficult to handle or resistant. The root issue of stubbornness is willfulness, which is ‘I want what I want when I want it’. You think you have rights, well are you willing to give up your rights for another?

12. Comparisons and competition. 2 Corinthians 10:12 makes it clear that comparing oneself with others is foolish. “I wish is was more like…I wish you were more like…” How about, “I wish I/you were more like Christ!” Comparison is a form of competition. The motive of a comparing heart is pride.

Pride is a powerful beast that wants to control you. Be careful to let him in your cave. Once he is in he will be at home to stay, and it is difficult to sweep him away.

Are you a fire starter or a fire extinguisher?

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There is an assassin in almost every group. This assassin is trying to kill relationships. It is trying to get you to close your cool, to get you to fall off your rocker, to get you to prove that you are not the kind of person very one thinks you are. The assassin is…Gossip. Are you an assassin?

What is Gossip? Telling another person something about someone without permission that may or may not be truth.

How can gossip be disguised? Gossip can be disguised as truth. Just because it’s true doesn’t give you a right to spread it. It can be a call for help. If so ask the source if they need assistance, then go to a wise friend. It Christian circles it can be a prayer request. This can be very dangerous and not only hurt someone emotionally, but also spiritually. And it can be disguised as sarcasm. A mixture of truth wrapped in humor at someone else’s expense can be a hurtful means of gossip (Prov.26:18-19).

Why gossip? People gossip for many different reasons such as revenge or jealousy, often to get back at someone for a wrong done to them. Sometimes is a fight for power because of insecurity in an effort to show how one is better than someone. Primarily gossip is rooted in the sin of pride, possibly to show how much you know about someone else. Do you ever wonder why the tabloids and gossip columns are so popular? Pride lies to us and makes us believe that you might make more friends because of the dirt we know about another, but instead it leaves us with more enemies. Some stoop so low as to make a hobby out of gossip because of the joy they receive from it.

What is the damage of gossip? As the apostle James says, “the tongue is like wind in a forest fire.” Gossip can tarnished a reputation, ruined families, wreck your job, split a church, and break relationships. The cost of gossip can be immeasurable.

A woman repeated a bit of gossip about a friend. Within a few days the whole community knew the story. The person it concerned was deeply hurt and offended. Later, the woman responsible for spreading the rumor learned that it was completely untrue. A courageous person confronted her by telling a simple story. A few days ago I went to the marketplace and purchased a chicken. On my way home I plucked its feathers and drop them one by one along the road. That night after I making some good fried chicken I was thinking to myself, “I wish I would have saved all those feathers”. So the next day, I tried to go back and collect all those feathers I dropped. However, the wind had blown all the feathers away. After searching for hours, I returned with only three feathers in my hand. You see, It’s easy to drop them, but it is impossible to get them back. So it is with gossip.

What does the Bible say about GOSSIP? Ephesians 4:29-32

WHAT IS THE “G” WORD: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.” (v.29a)

WHY SAY “NO” GOSSIP: 1. That it may benefit those who listen (v.29b) – you have the power to build up or destroy someone with your words.  2. That it may not grieve the Spirit (v.30) – your words not only hurt others, but God too.

HOW TO BE GOSSIP-FREE: 1. Get rid of bad communication (v.31 bitterness, rage, brawling, slander, and every form of malice).  2. Have good communication (v.32 kind, compassionate, and forgiving)

There are 3 components every Fire: Burnable substance, Flame and OxygenThere are 3 components to Gossip: true or untrue facts gossip or lie-story, and pride What should I do if I am a fire starter? Stop it immediately. Ask forgiveness. Be truthful from this point on. How to be a fire extinguisher? Confront in love by asking the gossiper: How do you know that? Do you have actual personal knowledge of the event or situation? What is your motive? Why do I need to hear this? Stop a gossip/lie before it starts by saying, “I don’t want to hear what you have to say about…” Pray for the person being wronged. Encourage both the doer and receiver. Speak the TRUTH.

3:10 to Yuma

This is a movie review:

This is a remake of a 1957 Western.

Dan Evans (Christian Bale), is just a man trying to make a life for his family. His life is one step away from crumbling to nothing: He’s down a leg, his son Mark suffers from chronic respiratory problems, his ranch and only source of income has become a desert from lack of rain, and then the banker who owns the note on his property is seeking to make a buck by repossessing and selling it to the railroad. Reacting to his difficult situation, Dan says, “I’ve been standing on one leg for three damn years waiting for God to do me a favor and He ain’t listening.”

Dan Evans is no hero, just an ordinary Joe. He is what he is, no frills. He simple speaks what he thinks and does not manipulate.

Then there is Ben Wade (Russell Crowe), who plays the best outlaw I have ever seen. He is the kind of guy you love to hate, but there is something mysteriously interesting about him. He is Bible thumping creep with a Messiah-complex, and who has named his gun “the hand of God”. He kills anyone who stands between him and the riches he seeks, and even kills people as a hobby. A unique side note: his mom at a train station as a child abandoned him, and interestingly enough she told him to read the Bible.

One day Ben comes across Dan Evans’ herd of cattle while seeking to rob a banker coach. Dan becomes instrumental in Ben’s arrest and volunteers to help deliver him to Contention, Arizona, where he will be put on the prison train to Yuma at 3:10pm. Dan does this all for $200 to save his ranch and gain the respect of his wife and son. He is willing to risk his life for what he loves.

While on the journey to Contention it is just that, contention. Ben does everything he can to outsmart his captors. This is when Dan becomes an ordinary hero. Dan and Ben have multiple interactions on the journey. Dan’s humble ways shoot down the pride of Ben Wade. We learn that Dan’s life is built to be a hero to his children, and a man of honor to his wife. These are all things Ben learns to admire: fatherhood, humility, and character.

I recommend 3:10 to Yuma for adult audiences because of the violence and language.

 

cat and dog theology

Growing up I had a cat named Solomon. He was mentally challenged, not from birth, but later in life because a car hit him. He had no teeth, drooled all the time and had to eat soft food the rest of its poor life. Before Solomon’s incident he was like any ordinary cat…all about himself.

 

Also, I had two dogs. Budo (Eskimo for ‘Beauty of the North’) a blue-eyed husky-cocker spaniel mixture that was the fieriest dog you have ever met. I have scares to this day from that beast chopping into me. Needles to say we got rid of Budo because he didnt live up to his name.

 

Shadow, our second dog was the most loveable golden retriever you had ever met. It was all about you….pleasing you, playing with you were her favorite things to do.

 

There is a joke about cats and dogs that conveys their differences perfectly. A dog says, ‘You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me, you must be God.’ A cat says, ‘You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me, I must be God.  [Note: cat and dog diaries below]

 

Using this metaphor in the Christian life dog theology says “Lord, You love me, You bless me abundantly, You gave Your life for me, You must be God.”  Whereas cat theology says, “Lord, You love me, You bless me abundantly, You gave Your life for me, I must be God.”

 

Our understanding of how we relate to God may not be wrong, but it may be incomplete. The God-given traits of cats (‘you exist to serve me’) and dogs (‘I exist to serve you’) can be similar to certain theological attitudes held by many Christians. In our personal theologies, some attitudes may draw us closer to God, and others can also pull us away from Him.

 

These thoughts are not entirely original. They came from a book I read called Cat and Dog Theology. Good read, and it’s short.

 

Justin Hutts [2.8.07]

 

 

 

“Excerpts from a Dog’s Diary*

8:00 am – Dog food! My favorite thing!

9:30 am – A car ride! My favorite thing!

9:40 am – A walk in the park! My favorite thing!

10:30 am – Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!

12:00 pm – Lunch! My favorite thing!

1:00 pm – Played in the yard! My favorite thing!

3:00 pm – Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!

5:00 pm – Milk bones! My favorite thing!

7:00 pm – Got to play ball! My favorite thing!

8:00 pm – Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!

11:00 pm – Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

 

* Excerpts from a Cat’s Diary*

Day 983 of my captivity.

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

 

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a “good little hunter” I am. Jerks!

 

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of “allergies.” I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

 

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow — but at the top of the stairs.

 

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released – and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded. The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now…