Greater Good

“But the greatest among you shall be your servant.” Matthew 23:11 NASB

As I skim through social media, it occurs to me that the “greatest” among us today are about as far from being servants as we could imagine. Spoiled, cosseted, and overpaid celebrities from Hollywood, sport venues, and certain financial and political arenas are being toasted and held up for worship as the experts on life. It’s as if they are the gods we should look up to, and that we should follow without question. Many of them certainly act like they are above all human laws and morals. It’s all about lust. Lust for control, for sex, for the almighty dollar; it’s all about power. As Christians, our guide, our Law Book, is the Bible. It is very clear on idolatry, lust, and temptation.

“You shall have no other gods before Me. “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.” Exodus 20:3‭-‬4, Deuteronomy 5:6-7 NASB

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:15‭-‬17 NASB

“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.” James 1:13‭-‬14‭, ‬16 NASB

So, Greater Good. Servanthood. It’s different for every person. How does it look for you; on you? It’s not for everyone to wash the feet of others (figuratively at least, if not actually), although I believe that unless you’ve done it, you’ll never understand true servanthood.

Afflicted, But NOT Broken

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16‭-‬18 NASB

Listen to Hillsong UNITED Good Grace:

Don’t let your heart be troubled

Hold your head up high

Don’t fear no evil

Fix your eyes on this one truth

God is madly in love with you

Take courage

Hold on

Be strong

Remember where our help comes from

Jesus

Our redemption

Our salvation

Is in His blood

Jesus

Light of heaven

Friend forever

His kingdom come

We are never alone. No matter what we are are currently struggling with. Who we are struggling to get along with. Circumstance, people, things, any outside influence – there will always be something working against us. That’s just the way of this broken world. Every day we make choices, and one of those choices is how deeply we will allow the enemy to afflict us. We don’t get to choose the type of affliction, or even how much effect it will have on us physically. Our choice is much deeper, soul deep. On the outside, I may be broken, afflicted by a physical illness or other limitation; I might be homesick, or homeless, broke, financially ruined, separated from loved ones. Inside, in my soul, that’s what counts.

Anything we face, everything we endure in this life is truly “momentary, light affliction“. As Paul says,

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, …..” 2 Corinthians 4:7‭-‬9‭, ‬17 NASB

I’m not making light of any affliction or anyone’s struggles. God alone knows what you (and I) are dealing with. The one thing we need to focus on is this: no matter what it is we face now on this earth, the eternity we face as believers in the LORD Jesus Christ will more than make up for it. I can’t even imagine the agony awaiting those who reject Him. That is our choice, people. The single biggest choice that anyone, anywhere, anytime will face. Either you are for Him, or you are against Him.

Where do you stand?

Treasure Hunting

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; …..Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”
2 Corinthians 4:7‭-‬9‭, ‬16 NASB

It occurs to me that the majority of humans, me included, spent our lives searching for treasure. Monetary treasure, relational treasure, the treasure of children. We think these things will complete us, and bring us satisfaction. It’s so sad when we realize that none of these, nothing that we can do or obtain on this earth, will bring real, heart-filling satisfaction. There’s only one way to reach that. It isn’t politically correct, or socially acceptable, to say this. In many parts of the world, you can lose your life for telling others this truth….. but that doesn’t make it any less true.

One way to reach the real treasure, satisfaction, completion, in our lives. One way. The real “Golden Ticket”.

“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.” Isaiah 53:4‭-‬5 NASB

Through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, through His Blood that was shed in His torture and ultimately in His hanging on the cross, we receive our satisfaction and our completion. It is the only way. Even when we don’t think we are broken, we are. The saddest thing in life, to me, is to see people who are “above” it all. Those people who believe in their power, that it is through their efforts that they will find their treasures. Believe me, I am not in a position to judge anyone, because I am the most guilty of all.

God loves us most when we recognize our brokenness; when we finally realize that there is nothing we can do the fix ourselves. No matter how talented or smart or wealthy. We are totally dependent on Him. I’m working on switching my focus from the treasure hunting of this world to the anticipation of the treasures of heaven, where our hearts are full of the Glory of the LORD! I’d like to have an easier life, and I’d rather be with a companion, a partner, than to continue to be alone, but I’m trying to focus on the right things, the God things, instead of the earth things.

God turns our brokenness in a beautiful treasure!

We Are Insufficient

“Blessed be the LORD, Who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant. May the LORD our GOD be with us, as He was with our fathers; may He not leave us or forsake us, that He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways and to keep His Commandments and His Statutes and His Ordinances, which He commanded our fathers. And may these words of mine, with which I have made supplication before the LORD, be near to the LORD our GOD day and night, that He may maintain the cause of His servant and the cause of His people Israel, as each day requires, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is GOD; there is no one else. Let your heart therefore be wholly devoted to the LORD our GOD, to walk in His Statutes and to keep His Commandments, as at this day.”

In 1 Kings 8 we learn about the temple Solomon builds for the LORD GOD. To build today, it would cost $200 billion dollars, or $60 million dollars per square foot* for Solomon’s temple; just the building itself. For reference, the average square foot price in the Oklahoma City Metro area is $117*, according to Zillow Real Estate Marketplace.

[See 2 Samuel 6:13 for the story of moving the Ark containing the tablets of Moses with the Ten Commandments to Jerusalem. We learn in that passage that Aaron’s rod and the pot of manna are no longer in the ark.]

Consider the scope of this day:

“And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who were assembled to him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen they could not be counted or numbered.” 1 Kings 8:5 NASB

Nothing we can do is sufficient; and these passages highlight just how insufficient we are. 1 Kings 8:1-64 describes the temple Solomon built to house the Ark of the LORD; to glorify the Most High God. In spite of being the most beautiful, expensive building (v27) ever built, it is insufficient for God. The countless sacrificial animals are insufficient. The priests are insufficient. The altars are insufficient. The immense sacrifice of all of the animals was insufficient. God’s PRESENCE was there, but He doesn’t LIVE there. Anything we can do is insufficient, because GOD ALONE is sufficient for us, for every area of life. It took the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus (Hebrews 9:26) to be sufficient to cover our sins.

The significance of this passage is to highlight the insufficiency of man, and the sufficiency of God. It talks of God’s Presence (v.57,59), God’s Power (v58), God’s Passion (v.60), and God’s Pardon (v.62-63). Seven times in the chapter Solomon highlights the listening of God.

Now the king and all Israel with him offered sacrifice before the LORD. Solomon offered for the sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered to the LORD, 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. So the king and all the sons of Israel dedicated the house of the LORD. On the same day the king consecrated the middle of the court that was before the house of the LORD, because there he offered the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat of the peace offerings; for the bronze altar that was before the LORD was too small to hold the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat of the peace offerings.” 1 Kings 8:56‭-‬64 NASB

Where is your significance? Does it it lie in Jesus Christ alone, or are you still trying to prove your own sufficiency to the LORD GOD of the Universe?

First, Last ….. I AM

This is what the LORD says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies: “I AM the First and the Last; there is no other God. Who is like Me? Let him step forward and prove to you his power. Let him do as I have done since ancient times when I established a people and explained its future. Do not tremble; do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim My purposes for you long ago? You are My witnesses—is there any other God? No! There is no other Rock—not one!” Isaiah 44:6‭-‬8 NLT

This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer and Creator: “I AM the LORD , who made all things. I alone stretched out the heavens. Who was with Me when I made the earth?” Isaiah 44:24 NLT

Let Us Make Man in Our Image

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:26‭-‬28 NASB

We are made in GOD’s image. Look in the mirror. What do you see? From whitest white to blackest black, and every shade of skin between, we are made in God’s image. Man or woman, we are made in God’s image. African, Asian, Pacific Islander, European, American (North or South), whatever continent or landmass you are from, we are all made in God’s image. It makes me crazy when people insist on separating us by color! I have sisters and brothers that don’t match my skin tone, but that doesn’t make our relationship any less. I saw a post online about two little girls who insist they are twins. They are not biologically related, and their skin color is quite the opposite, and that doesn’t matter at all to them. As far as they are concerned, they are twins.

Of course we are different culturally. That’s a given. I celebrate cultural diversity, and love getting to know different customs and culinary styles. It’s fascinating to see how different our customs can be even when we are in the same nation. From deep in Cajun country to the Navajo farmer to the California surfer there is probably as much or more cultural difference as between a Midwesterner to a Moscovite. But color? That’s a man-made distinction that doesn’t – shouldn’t – exist in God’s universe. We are all people of color, excepting albinos, who lack pigmentation in their skin. Even then, we could consider them the basis for all of the rest of us!

So what then, you ask?

As Christ followers, Christians, it is imperative that we lead the movement of taking “race” out of our vocabularies. My sisters Deborah and Brenda, who just happen to have different parents and darker skin colors than me, are still my sisters. They aren’t a different race. We are all part of, and full members of, the human race. Celebrate the diversity of skin colors and body shapes and unique faces that our Glorious God saw fit to populate our world with!

Can I get an AMEN, people!!

Image by Dreamstime.com

Pay Attention!

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” – 1 PETER 5:8‭-‬9 NASB

The devil, the adversary. The word Satan means adversary. He is also called the god of this age, god of this world, deceiver, camouflager, Father of lies ….. he goes by many names. The words used here, seeking to devour, mean to gulp down. He wants to DESTROY us. Where is he? Is he real?

“Now there was a day when the sons of God [angelic hosts] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” ” – JOB 1:6‭-‬7 NASB

It amazes me to hear that people don’t believe he exists. I read an article online by Phil Zuckerman, Ph.D., professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College, on the existence of the devil from his book, The Secular Life. Some excerpts:

How can people seriously believe in the devil? The year is 2015, not 1315. And yet, the fact remains that tens of millions of Americans continue to believe that there is a magical, wicked, evil — oh, and smart — being out there doing magical, wicked, evil deeds and presiding over a fiery realm, where demons crawl and witches cackle. Oh, wait. No cackling witches. Just demons, right?

According to a 2013 YouGov survey, 57% of Americans believe in the devil. And yes, that is 57% of American adults — not kindergarteners.

But there is no such thing as the devil, just as there is no such thing as fairies, imps, or goblins. The two largest religions in the world — Christianity and Islam — teach that there is a devil. And they are wrong. There is no evidence for such a thing. Not a shred. It is simply something that germinated from the unscientific, irrational minds of early humans who tried their best to explain why bad things happen to good people, why good people sometimes do bad things, and why there is so much needless suffering in the world.

He also included this:

In October, 2013, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia declared that, yes, he most certainly believes in the existence of Satan. But why don’t we see him? Well, “you know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and what not. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore…It’s because he’s smart….What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.” (Emphasis mine)

I belong on the side with Justice Scalia. Why? Because, like Dwight L. Moody, “The Bible says so, and I have done business with him.” May I add, it is not a pleasant experience. Does this mean I have dealt with Satan, the adversary, himself? Probably not. He has many fallen angels and demons who work beside him. Paul said:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” – EPHESIANS 6:12 NASB

He is sneaky; he is a liar and a thief. He incites persecution against followers of Christ, and he hinders the work of Christians. He sows doubt and distrust anywhere he can. How can one created being do all this and create such havoc in the world, when he is NOT omnipresent? He relies on his demons, his followers and all of the other fallen angels (back to Ephesians 6), but he is also a spirit and can travel quickly. The ultimate power behind persecution is Satan.

Even many Christians don’t believe Satan exists. If we can’t see it, it can’t be real….. but, we can’t see God, either. Does Satan exist? If not, where does the mayhem and evil come from? He is as real as you and I. An interesting note: the devil, Satan, is not currently residing in hell; he is very much alive and living here on earth. During the Tribulation period (still to come) he will be permanently expelled from heaven, although based on scriptures, he currently has at least limited access to heaven, to have conversations with God. He is seeking and stalking his prey, and his prey is anyone aligning themselves with Jesus Christ!

“But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” – 1 PETER 5:9 NASB

The Good News is this: JESUS has already defeated him, on Calvary! Calvary is our Hope, because it is where Satan was defeated. We don’t fight FOR victory, we fight FROM victory, and we apply it in everyday life. Be ready! Don’t focus on Satan, focus on Christ, but don’t underestimate the deceiver. After all, if an actual lion gets loose, do we ignore it, or try to get away from it? Don’t be ignorant of the devil, just be aware and stand firm; submit to the LORD in every aspect of our lives. (Ephesians 6:10-18) We are not alone in this battle. We – all Christians – are all in the same spiritual battle, and we need to be, and should be, watching each others backs.

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” – JAMES 4:7 NASB

“These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of Lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” – REVELATION 17:14 NASB

The Lion of the Tribe of Judah defeats the lion known as the devil, aka Satan!