July 16, 2016
I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born, says the LORD.
God wants to bring about new life in us, a progressive change from sowing our life pursuing dead things to sowing our life pursuing living and life giving things. Often, for new life to be birthed into us we have to go through pain.
This can be physical pain, financial pain, emotional pain, relationship pain or any number of other kinds of pain but each one holds the promise of life coming.
We can choose to either resist the birth process, prolonging both the birth and the pain or we can choose to work with the natural process of birth, anticipating the indescribable joy that it brings.
When we cooperate with that truth we can see how true it really is. Go through the pain and allow God to bring a new level of life on the other side.
“To the woman He said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to your children.” (Gen. 3:16)
July 2, 2016
A bit surreal reading this.
February 14, 2016
As I am sure most posts start, this has been on my mind for a few weeks now. Percolating I guess. The topic of this post is the Hebrew word “mitzraim.” This is a very obscure topic among us non-Jewish people and without intentionally searching out the topic the chances of encountering it are fairly remote. So it has been surprising to me that information about “mitzraim” has been coming to me from sources consistently all this week.
One of the insights came to me through a video a friend of mine shared on Facebook. The video was of a Jewish rabbi, Dr. Abraham Twerski (who is also a practicing psychologist specializing in addictions), describing how lobsters grow. It is a great clip and a fantastic introduction to this blog. I invite you to take a look then come back and continue reading.
That thing that the lobster feels is “mitzraim.” What mitzraim means is constriction or tightness. The root of the word means constriction but it can also mean distress as it is translated in most of our English translations in this verse,
Psalm 118:5, “From the distress (or constriction: hametzar – singular version of mitzraim) I called to God, He answered me in divine spaciousness.”
When we feel severe distress we often feel as though our own chest is constricting our heart. I believe this is the feeling that David is describing in this psalm. I believe David understood the spiritual condition of constrictions in our soul. I believe he also understood the contrasting condition brought by God’s abiding presence in our life, divine spaciousness.
The interesting thing about “mitzraim” is that it also means Egypt. This adds a whole new dimension to the Exodus story. With this new dimension the story is no longer just about the children of Israel, but is now also a story about you and me. Since we live in a free and democratic society it is hard to identify ourselves with slavery, even harder to believe that, apart from God’s intervention, we are in fact a slave. Just as Jesus told us.
John 8:34 NIV — Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
A slave to the demands of our flesh, the twisted desires of our soul and the influences of dark spiritual forces. They straight-jacket us while we are in complete oblivion to the confinement our captors have put us in. It sounds illogical, we become slaves by doing what we feel like doing when we feel like doing it with whoever we feel like doing it with. That sound like freedom doesn’t it? Then contrast that with what the Bible says, that we should obey, do this, don’t do that, it sounds very restrictive. Sound absurd doesn’t it.
In fact, this thinking is captured well in a song from my youth. Let me share some of the lines from it.
Living easy, living free
Season ticket on a one-way ride
Asking nothing, leave me be
Taking everything in my stride
Don’t need reason, don’t need rhyme
Ain’t nothing I would rather do
Going down, party time
My friends are gonna be there too
In case you didn’t recognize those lyrics, they’re from the song titled “Highway to hell” by the band AC/DC.
But even as the song tells you, following your own whim and way is not the road to freedom. Not physical freedom or spiritual freedom. Those who have addictions are slaves to those addictions and it constricts the enjoyment of their life. Anyone who indulges in being lazy become enslaved by laziness and it limits their opportunities in life. Anyone who indulges in gossip become addicted to listening to and spreading gossip. It then restricts their relationships because they become know to be untrustworthy and disloyal. I could go on but ultimately, living life doing what you want when you want is the road to a torturous confinement.
True freedom requires discipline and boundaries. That’s why God gives us His word, his instruction, to instruct us in how to live our life in freedom. To show us where the boundaries are. That’s where I’ll continue on my next post in this series.
October 31, 2015
I wrapped up my post on the Advantages of Humility by mentioning that there are two more fantastic benefits. Also, in my post on The Dangers of Pride I identified through scripture that pride causes separation, strife, contention and division. It only follows that humility would bring the opposite results but, so we can know for sure, God spells it out in His inspired word. Those are the benefits you are reading about today.
I believe the best introduction to these benefits and my thoughts on them would be to share how I came to discover that humility fosters peace and unity and how this began my study on this highest of virtues.
If you have read the page titled About Koinonia here on this blog or if you know me personally, you know how passionate I feel about unity of the Christian faith. In the middle of the year of 2010 I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed by how enormous the problem of division is within the body of Christ. I was thinking, “How in the world would all of these divisions be once again united? What is the key? And how can one man do anything about it?” While studying one night on unity I came across a quote from a book called Organic Leadership, by the author Neil Cole. In it he wrote, “We strive to be unified, but this is the wrong pursuit. We look for things we share in common. We try to tolerate differences under the banner of unity. When we try to be united, we are just made more aware of our differences. But when we pursue humility – true humility – unity is the natural by-product. We cannot get to unity by chasing after it. The door that leads to unity is humility.”
At the time I thought this was a secular book on leadership and so I said to myself, “That sounds good, but is it biblical?” I then began to search the Word for passages on humility and it’s antonym pride. Wow!! So much material!! God blessed me so much. I wouldn’t even be actively searching for insights on humility and they just kept coming my way wherever I turned. One example is, I don’t usually listen to sermons on the radio but during that time I did a few times and whenever I did, there happened to be a message about humility, pride or on one of the specific manifestation of humility or pride.
Now the quote from Organic Leadership say, “The door that leads to unity is humility.” but during this time I remembered it as saying, “The gate by which we enter into unity is humility.” I think this was a divinely inspired misremembering (is that a word?). There is not a whole lot of difference between these two sayings but I think you will understand the significance of slight variation as I explain what happened later.
It was roughly 4 years later when I came across scripture that piqued my attention. It was
Psalm 118:19-20, “Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, and I will praise the LORD. This is the gate to the LORD, Through which the righteous shall enter.”
When I read this I just knew it was the confirmation I was looking for. I was like, “Yes! Yes! This is it!! What is it? Tell me, please!” Then the next verse reads,
Psalm 118:21, “I will praise You, for You have answered me, and have become my salvation.”
What?!? What is this gate you talked about, David? I don’t get it. How is an answer a gate?
Thankfully I had been studying the Hebrew language for a while so I decided to look at the original language to see what was being said exactly. What I found was that the word for “answer” in Hebrew is “anah” and while this word does occasionally mean answered, it most often means humbled. Now that makes sense.
This is the gate to the LORD (oneness), Through which the righteous shall enter. I will praise You, for You have humbled me, and have become my salvation (Yeshuah).
David is thanking God that He has made David small enough to now fit through that gate. I don’t know about you, but that is just beautiful to me.
Well, this post seems to be running long. There is still so much to share about the relationship between humility, peace and unity, and I really want to get this part published right away, so I’m going to make this a part 1 and continue this with a follow-up post (or two).
Lord God, Father of my soul, thank You for revealing the way to oneness with You. Both in the words inspired to our spiritual ancestor David and the living example of Your Beloved Son. I pray for all my brothers and sister who haven’t turned over their prideful soul and self to death and resurrect in the Spirit, in the humility, power and love of Christ Jesus. Please help their blindness. Help them to recognize their need for smallness, not greatness, that permits us to enter into Your fellowship. Give us assistance to become empty of self that we may become what you created us to be, in your image and likeness. That we may be love as you are love. I pray we become the kind of people that when you look upon us you say, “Levi” (levee) My heart.
April 26, 2015
The way of the sluggard is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is paved.”
The inspired words of the Lord are so beautiful and rich with meaning and truth. In Hebrew the phrase “… but the path of the upright is paved.” is only three words. But, my goodness, the depth of meaning contained in just those three words is incredible.
In Hebrew it reads, “v’orach yisarim s’lulah.” “Yisharim” is the plural form of the word “yashar.” So literally it would be upright ones. Samson Raphael Hirsch, a 19th century Jewish rabbi, describes an upright one as “an individual whose thoughts and will are directed exclusively upon the aim which has been set for him by his sense of duty and destination.” Now compare his words with those of the writer of Hebrews.
“Looking upon Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
I’d say according to that definition, Jesus would definitely qualify as an upright one.
“Orach” means path or way. The upright ones, their path or way of life is “s’lulah” or always even, going continuously straight and upwards.
The upright one is contrasted with the lazy man. A lazy man completely shuns this sense of duty. When difficulty comes, he gives up. When the difficulty he faces is just the fact that he doesn’t feel like it, he has the laughable faculty for inventing excuses to shirk responsibilities. “There is a jackal in the way, a lion in the street.” Because of this way of living, the lazy man’s life is increasingly difficult. Like trying to walk a path through nothing but hedges of thorns.
The upright one is a person of fierce resolve. When the real difficulties come, and they will come, he overcomes. Difficulties become increasingly easier to conquer. Laziness is always in the way, no matter what you wish to do for yourself or for other. It is a hindrance that God, as your loving Heavenly Father, will chasten you to overcome. Are you having difficulty in your life? Does it feel like you are trying to walk a path through the briar patch? Do some inventory. I am not saying that you are certainly being lazy but we (me included) need to consider the possibility. We are called to disciplined spiritual work. And even if you are physically a hard worker, you could be spiritually lazy. Are you studying your bible? Are you being disciplined in your prayer life? If you are going to my church right now, you are being exhorted to pray more and pray with more understanding. Get your thoughts and will directed, resolved on this aim. If you’re having trouble disciplining yourself, find a partner. Meet together every morning until you have the discipline to continue on your own.
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.”
Remember, “Nothing of eternal consequence (eternal significance) happens apart from prayer.”
Prayer is but one spiritual activity we can be lazy in. There are others to consider while you are doing inventory. Prayer is meaningful spiritual work though and must not be neglected.
My Father and my King,
I pray that I am ever reminded of the duty and destination set before me. Help me to maintain a fierce resolve, keep my undistracted attention on my example, Jesus, so that one day where He is, I will be also. Help me to overcome the hindrance of the flesh and it’s tendency to be lazy. May I rest when you tell me to rest and be active when you desire me to be active. Help me to realize the rewards of: rest for my soul as I yoke myself with Your Son; a way of life that is always even, going continuously straight and upwards; and the privilege to hear you say, “Well done My good and faithful servant.”
March 7, 2015
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6
I love how detailed and specific God is throughout scripture. Jesus, being one with the Father, is just as specific with His words. God is not slipshod with what He says. With the knowledge and wisdom He has concerning all things He is masterful in using words to mean so many things at the same time and all of them being true. I don’t know about you but I have a tendency to gloss over the details of scriptures. In the past, as I was reading this scripture, I would unconsciously read “hunger and thirst” and kind of combine them as “strong desire” because I thought that they both express strong physical desires. Looking at the details though, God could have expressed this with either “hunger” or “thirst” but He chose to use both. This begs the question, “Why?”
While Jesus was expressing spiritual longings, He is using desires that we are physically familiar with. So, to answer why, lets explore what hunger means to us physically and what thirst means to us physically. This may sound shocking to you but hunger is not really a desire. When our body is in need of food it produces the feeling of hunger to make us aware of this need. We then desire, seek out and consume food to relieve this feeling. The same goes for thirst. Our body is in need of water and so it produces the feeling of thirst to make us aware of this need.
Hunger then is the awareness of our need for one thing and thirst is the awareness or our need for another thing. The reason Jesus said that “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” is because in order to achieve righteousness we must recognize our spiritual need of two separate things. Once we become aware of our need, a desire is produced within us to satisfy that need. We seek out and make that thing we need apart of what we are.
Hunger is a spiritual picture of the awareness of our personal need for knowledge and understanding. In order for us to be righteous we need to have an understanding of what righteous ways are. We long for to know God’s will. The word, the truth, the extension of Himself that clearly shows us life as it truly is, not as the world misrepresents it. Through our study of the word of God, the bread of life; through seeking out shepherds who provide proper nourishment for our level of growth and development, we gain knowledge of the principles that put order to our activity, relieving our longing for spiritual food.
Thirst is a spiritual picture of the awareness of our need for active obedience. In order for us to be righteous we also need to be obedient to the ways we know to be right. The book of Psalms speaks frequently about thirst. I believe David had a very deep awareness of his need for obedience when He wrote in Psalm 119:131, “I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.” I believe that David is keenly aware that it is not the commandment that satisfies his thirst but the obedience to the commandment that brings satisfaction. God was also communicating the truth of this principle when He inspired David to pen the words in Psalm 63:1, “My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for you, in a dry and weary land where there is not water.” This world that we live in is a dry and weary land. There is very little obedience to God’s ways in this world.
In the physical, both food and water are vitally important for life, but our need for water is more urgent than our need for food. We can generally survive 40 days or greater without food but we won’t last more than a week without water. The spiritual truth attached to this physical reality is that knowledge, understanding of truth, belief, or faith that we are not actively obedient to, or in other words, without works is dead, as James so poignantly put it. When we walk in submission to God’s will for our life, according to His word, we are drinking from the “spring of the water of life” (Rev. 21:6) and our life also becomes life giving. Inspiring other toward obedience and thereby “streams of living water (then) flow from (us)” (John 7:37). Our life then is filled and overflowing.
God, my Father and King, I am thanking you for the wisdom you gave us through your Son, our anointed salvation, who with just 14 words could express volumes to His disciples. Thank you for the words of instruction for full satisfaction of the needs of my soul. That I may live and not die and be life giving to this world. In this world where bitterness is in the mouths of all who revel in sin and shallowness, I am thankful of “How sweet Your words are to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” (Psalm 119:103). I am also thankful for the Godly legacy passed to me from the words of my grandfather. Thank you for the divine arrangement that placed his bible and his words into my hand, mind and heart. I thank you and give you praise for giving those seeds to me, for causing them to grow and blossom. I pray that all these words would work in the lives of all who read them, giving practical application, giving life to the reader and flow waters of life to others around them.
January 8, 2015
Ecclesiastes 7:8, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.”
In a day and age when start-ups, innovation and creativity is heralded as something to be noticed, the Word of God says that the start of something is not that impressive compared to its conclusion. Many times we see things have such bright and promising beginnings but when all is said and done we often see them fall and fail and become corrupted (not necessarily in that order). We look at the results or aftermath and just say, “How sad.” Read the rest of this entry »
January 3, 2015
So, this is post #4 in a series dealing with pride and humility. So far I have share four benefits of humility, listed the major dangers of pride and looked at the favorable sense of pride. In that first post I casually mentioned that along with the four benefits listed there are many more. Today I want to share a few of these additional advantages that God has made inherent in humility.
- God hears and responds to the humble.
Daniel 10:12, “Then he (the angel) said to me, ‘Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your mind and heart to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come as a result of your words.'”
- Humility gets God’s attention.
2 Chronicles 16:9 ISV, “The LORD’s eyes keep on roaming throughout the earth, looking for those whose hearts completely belong to him, so that he may strongly support them.”
Isaiah 66:2, “…But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.”
- Humility brings honor
The word for honor in the Hebrew language also means respect, dignity, greatness, weight, purpose and glory. All of these words are represented in the word honor and all are achieved through humility. I want you to keep this in mind and exchange the words as you read these scriptures.
Proverbs 29:23, “A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor.”
Proverbs 22:4, “In the wake of humility comes the fear of the Lord, even riches, and honor, and life.”
- God saves the humble
Psalm 18:27, “For you will save the humble people, but bring down haughty looks.”
2 Samuel 22:28, “You will save the humble people; but Your eyes are on the haughty, that You may bring them down.”
- Humility is essential (prerequisite) for wisdom
Proverbs 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom.”
Proverbs 22:4, “In the wake of humility comes the fear of the Lord…” Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
- God’s presence dwells with the humble
Isaiah 57:15, “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, ‘I dwell in the high and Holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.'”
Psalm 34:18 NIV, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
- Humility brings joy
Isaiah 29:19 NKJV, “And those who suffered (Hebrew word anahvim – the humbled ones) shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the impoverished people shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”
- Humility brings discernment
Psalm 25:9, “He guides the humble in judgement (discernment), and He teaches the humble His way.”
Psalm 25:14, “The secret counsel of God is with those that fear Him; it is His covenant to let them recognize it.”
There are two more bonuses of humility that I will be presenting. In my view, they are of the highest degree and quality. They are both the gift and goal of our faith. They are also more difficult to describe than all the others together so I will make a post dedicated to them alone. Check back to find out what they are.
As we begin this new year I pray that each of you meditate on the rewards that come with humility and that you work to rid yourself of pride and emphasize the humble nature of Christ that has been born into you. You will be amazed at the changes all around you as you do.
Amen and God bless you.
Additional posts in this series: In the wake of humility…, The Dangers of Pride, It’s Time to Hurt Your Pride, …but there are times when pride is a good thing and the follow up post to this one, Humility Fosters Peace and Unity.
December 27, 2014
“…but there are times when pride is a good thing.” I have been having conversations with people on the topic of pride for about the past four years and I hear this remark (usually early in the conversation) in roughly 1 in every 5 discussions. Yes, it is true that pride has a good connotation and I want to address this before moving on to the benefits of humility.
When the words for pride are used in the bible in a favorable sense it is with reference to a sense of delight that arises from an action.
David, the psalmist used this kind of sense when he referred to Israel as,
“the pride of Jacob, whom the Lord has loved.” Psalm 47:4
In a restoration prophecy made by Isaiah, he wrote that the fruitfulness of the land would be,
“something to be proud of.” Isaiah 4:2
Then, the apostle Paul told the Thessalonian congregation that, because of their faith, love, and endurance,
“we ourselves take pride in you among the congregations of God.” 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4
Honestly, this type of use of the words for pride occurs much less than the negative use. In fact, I would personally consider the occurrence of this type of pride as rare in both the bible and in the world. Please remember that. I think that as believers we should emphasize the things that God emphasizes and if God does not emphasize it, then maybe we shouldn’t either. In fact we are directly instructed to,
“Let the one bragging about himself brag about himself because of this very thing, that they possess insight and knowledge of Me, that I am the Lord, the One exercising loving-kindness, justice and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:24-25
God is masterful and brilliant in the use of language and making a play on words. I mentioned earlier that the favorable sense of pride is to have a sense of delight that arises from an action. Here God is making a direct connection to having a healthy sense of pride with the sense of delight He experiences. See, we are not being instructed to feel superior because we possess insight and knowledge of God but to only feel delight.
I think one of the best examples of a healthy sense of pride is given in the creation account recorded in Genesis. When God had completed a task, He looked at the results of the task and said that it was good. That was it. He recognized the quality of His work but wasn’t arrogant about it.
So, I say this again, this type of pride is rare in both the bible and in the world. This is a type of pride that we rarely posses. If you are quick to mention “…but there are times when pride is a good thing,” please do some inventory, reflect on your feelings. It is my perspective that someone who is quick to point this out is possibly doing so defensively. They have a need to protect a feeling that they do not want to let go of. Healthy or unhealthy, they like it so they will call it good. If you recall, on my listing of the dangers of pride I said that pride is deceptive. So, I am not saying that everyone who reminds us that there is a good connotation to pride is guilty of harboring an unfavorable sense. I am not the judge. I am just saying be cautious. I would hate for someone to hold on to and embrace something that in the end is going to be destructive to their life and soul. I simply want to warn you of the dangers, encourage you to examine the deep and hidden parts of yourself.
I pray God brings His light to your heart, your intentions, motives and desires to help you each to see any pride in your life that you may be blind to. Amen
Additional posts in this series: In the wake of humility…, The Dangers of Pride, It’s Time to Hurt Your Pride, the Advantages of Humility and the follow up post to this one, Humility Fosters Peace and Unity.
December 18, 2014
With humility on my mind lately, I stumbled on this great composition on pride. The author makes some great points. The write-up I did on the dangers of pride and this one complement each other really well. I hope you consider reading this and further consider examining your heart.