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Wednesday
Sep212011

Spiritual Pride vs. Pure Christian Humility

"Spiritual pride is the main door by which the devil comes into the hearts of those who are zealous for the advancement of Christianity. It is the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit, to darken the mind and mislead the judgment. It is the main source of all the mischief the devil introduces, to clog and hinder a work of God.

"Spiritual pride tends to speak of other persons’ sins with bitterness or with laughter and levity and an air of contempt. But pure Christian humility rather tends either to be silent about these problems or to speak of them with grief and pity. Spiritual pride is very apt to suspect others, but a humble Christian is most guarded about himself. He is as suspicious of nothing in the world as he is of his own heart. The proud person is apt to find fault with other believers, that they are low in grace, and to be much in observing how cold and dead they are and to be quick to note their deficiencies. But the humble Christian has so much to do at home and sees so much evil in his own heart and is so concerned about it, that he is not apt to be very busy with other hearts. He is apt to esteem others better than himself."

** **

Jonathan Edwards, *Works* (Edinburgh, 1979), I:398-400.

Style updated by Ray Ortland: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/rayortlund/2011/06/21/pride-vs-humility/ ).

Wednesday
Sep212011

The End is Coming! Now What?

The bumper sticker – a favorite source of devotional readings - struck a nerve, or was it a funny bone? For sale in an off-beat art gallery, the sticker proclaimed: *“Jesus is coming back. Look Busy!”* I admit to initially being offended, something we Christians have down to an art. Bless our hearts. After speaking with the artist selling it, I relaxed a little (rare for us uptight godly people). I eventually not only enjoyed the humor of it, in a “humble that I am so mature” kinda way, but even drew from its wisdom.

Want to start a Bible-based brouhaha, a skirmish among the saints? Discuss The End Times. We may have already caused as much tribulation in our oft-ugly zeal as John wrote of in The Revelation. May I propose a “Last Days” passage that we can probably all agree on and benefit from (a bit better than that sticker)?

Check out this advice given by Peter to some suffering, scattered saints: “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:7-9 - NIV)

Better than the TV show of that name, we get an Early Edition from Scripture that we are living in the last days. Be it another thousand days or years – God only knows - the next big thing on God’s calendar is Christ’s return and all that will bring: His righteous Universal rule, rewards for His people and catastrophe for the unsaved - justice and judgment.

Other than looking busy before God’s Christ-centered Cosmic Culmination, what should we be doing? This small chunk of Peter’s letter tells us three things to be “busy and about”: prayer, love and hospitality.

Peter, who slept in the Garden instead of praying before Jesus’ death, urges us to be alert, and full of soundness and sanity so we can pray. Prayerlessness, diagnosing from this passage, can be due to distraction, emotional and spiritual drunkenness. While few of us get drunk or stoned, many of us stay inebriated with a focus on the world, our hurts, stuff, pleasure, promotion…

Knowing Christ can come at any moment, His people are to be prepped for prayer by being clear minded and sober in their spirit (see 1 Peter 1:13 & 5:8.). We should be characterized by reasoned living, self-control, a reigned-in life. Please note: sober is not the same as somber, sour, dour, mean, rude.

Want a tried and true prayer pattern? Try A.C.T.S. (or C.A.T.S.). Start with Adoration: praising God for who He is (Ps. 150). Proceed to Confession: admitting your sin, seeking forgiveness (1 John1:5-10). Move next to Thanksgiving: acknowledging all He has done for you (1 Thess. 5:16-18). Then finish with Supplication: asking on behalf of others and yourself (Phil. 4:4-7).

Prompted to pray, Peter pushes us next to love - not feeling love, but doing love, which is God’s first and foremost commandment. Struggling people, like those to whom Peter wrote, like those we live around, need to be prayed for and need to be loved - deeply, fervently, above all else.

Jesus’ love for Peter covered his sins, as He does ours. Our action-packed, fervent love for others is to do the same. Ending hostilities, mending offenses, patching petty problems that fester, love maintains the unity of God’s Spirit in the bonds of peace (Ephesians 4:7, 29-5:2). Want a “Love Action Plan”? Check out 1 Corinthians 13, where you see love with feet and hands.

Jesus said, as rendered in The Message: "Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other" (John 13:34, 35). Do people recognize by your lively love life that Jesus is your Master?

Ah, Southern Hospitality! Being a Son of the South – a Georgia Boy - I have permission to poke at this venerable institution. Truth be told, you can find more hospitality in some institutions than you can in some churches, from God’s praying, loving people. We smile, we greet strangers, we are polite to a deceitful fault at times, but biblically hospitable?

When was the last time you had someone in your home? Be it for dessert, a meal, or emergency living arrangements. If you are waiting until the house is perfect, pre-confess your sin of inhospitableness. Is that even a word? It is certainly a transgression of God’s word. See Romans 12:13; Hebrews 10:23-25; 13:2; 1 Timothy 3:2; 3 John.

Perhaps you legitimately cannot host someone. Can you share, give, provide, take care of, watch over, baby sit for, take out for a meal? Peter was urging people to open their homes to fellow believers: traveling ministers who needed safe lodging, displaced disciples who needed shelter, poor folks who had less. A higher view of hospitality than “How ya’ll doing? Won’tcha come see us sometime?”

If your hospitality is reserved exclusively for family and a few close friends, you have missed the point. Do you have eyes or heart to see that single mom who needs a break, that lonely divorcee, the elderly who rarely get out or has visitors, widows and the fatherless? Read James 1:22- 2:17; 1 John 3:16-18; Matthew 25:31-46 and see if a people known for hospitality have followed God’s word in this matter.

What distractions are keeping you from prayer? Is your love for others a first and foremost priority, a feisty, stretching, straining, sacrificial love? Are you full of forgiveness of offenses and slights?

Why are there so many church splits, so much rancor and derision among His disciples? Could it be some “End Times” obsessed people need a greater obsession for prayer, love and hospitality? Might we be “busy but busted” when He returns, needing to be more offended about our neglect of His list of priorities?

I repeat: “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:7-9 - NIV)

*Kerry S. Doyal* - Pastor - *Grace Bible Church (an EFCA)*

Monday
Sep192011

Traditions: Decent Servants, Lousy Masters

Don't get me wrong, I am the first to acknowledge that God's Word does many great and glorious things: it encourages, brings life, tells us of Jesus and salvation, it instructs and warns us.. The list is incredibly, eternally endless. However, God's Word can haunt you too.

Yes, haunt you; track you down, taunt and torment you. Praise God it does. Readers of God's Word - especially those seeking to follow Him - know what I mean.

The story in Mark 7:1-13 ends with a phrase that we would be blessed to haunt us. In this tale of conflict - initiated by the Jewish scholars and Pharisees - Jesus lofts out a phrase that needs to sweep through our hearts, homes and churches.

Accusing Him of letting His disciples break the Traditions of the Elders (eating with ceremonially unclean hands), these religious leaders indignantly demand just cause for deviating from their customs. He lets His followers ignore the Traditions. Such sloppy living demeans Him, the disciples' Rabbi.

Mind you, Jesus' disciples had not broken God's Law. They had crossed a line of religious practice, and that was more than enough. The tone of Jesus' reply tells us how important this was to both Jesus and His accusers. After all, when Jesus publicly calls you a hypocrite, you must have stirred the wrong pot.

When Jesus says your worship is in vain and that your heart is far from the God you say you love - look out! When He tells you that you have replaced God's Word with your own traditions, setting aside His Law for your personal pious preferences - YIKES!

The Pharisee's well-intended desire to guard God's Law had led them to make rules that had become laws themselves. Their Traditions - which they called "fences to protect the law" - were originally godly applications and principles to help people live a devout life. Yet, as is often the case, they became the standards of righteousness, obedience, and fidelity to God and His Word.

Back to our haunting phrase. Jesus exposed a slick loophole they used to dishonor their parents and break the fifth commandment. While their use of Corban (gifts dedicated to God) was seen as spiritual, Jesus saw it as evil. He chastened: "Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that." Mark 7:13 (NIV)

Did you hear it? Has it started its holy haunting work yet? In case you missed it, here it is: "And you do many things like that." While that "you" was aimed at the Pharisees, it has more than a residual challenge for us. Yes, we too do many things like them, having standards that have become laws in and of themselves. Dare to consider a few?

We fear people will get drunk so we declare all drinking a sin, though most believers around the world imbibe wine regularly. Fear of drunkenness - which is clearly a sin - is wise and biblical. But to try to prevent it by setting up a fence that God did not is to set our well-intended rule above God's Word.

Personally, I do not drink. Know the old word "teetotaler?" I hope for the same for my children when they reach adulthood. But to say all drinking is always a sin is to go beyond Scripture. Doing so dishonors God and His Word, no matter how noble the motive. "And you do many things like that."

Indeed, dancing can lead to immorality. I would rather not face the temptation of seeing sweet young things gyrate to pulsating music. Does it Biblically follow that all dancing is sin? "You do many things like that."

Playing cards may lead to gambling, movies may lead to defilement, eating in a restaurant that serves beer may cause misunderstandings, too much jewelry and makeup can call undue attention to one's self. However, are there solid biblical grounds for our ground rules? "Many things like that."

Pianos were the contemporary musical instrument of their day a few hundred years ago. Organs - when first invented - pumped out contemporary Christian music. Now, they are a standard of pure worship for many. Their absence or presence can damn or vindicate a church.

Before we get arrogant, the sword cuts both ways. For some, if your church has drums and guitars, you're obviously filled with the Spirit, not bound by traditions. Our newest Tradition? "Many things like that."

In some churches, one could drop the doctrine of the Trinity easier than you could stop having Sunday School, a wonderful 200-year-old ministry tool, which has [often] "strayed" from its original street-ministry evangelistic roots. "Many things."

Mid-week prayer meeting and evening services are more holy to some than Biblical unity. I have not begun to speak of hymnals, choirs, overheads, vestments, orders of service, guys wearing ties and keeping their hair off their ears and collar, skirts verses slacks, diets, parenting and educational convictions, translations, select boycotts. "Many."

We need to be people of convictions, yet never go beyond God's Word. We must allow the Spirit of God to guide, restrain and liberate. We can rely on God's sustaining and perfecting grace, trusting Him and His methods to mature us.

Some of our Traditions, though nobly birthed, have grown into monsters that need slaying. May God's Word haunt us until we hear and heed it, even if it means violating "rules" that we have devoutly followed for years.

Kerry S. Doyal Grace Bible Church, an EFCA Making disciples of Jesus who love God & others by living & sharing His truth www.GetGraced.org

Friday
Aug192011

When men fall, do they not rise again? ? ?

You fall down, you get up. Like the old song says: you brush yourself off and start all over again.

You discover you've taken the wrong road, you get on the right one (after blaming the spouse, GPS, road signs, construction...).

Standing back up after stumbling & course corrections are common sense. Exceptions to this are noteworthy, concerning. They show something is seriously wrong. Ask Jeremiah about that... (from Jer. 8):

* 4"You shall say to them, Thus says the LORD: * *When men fall, do they not rise again?* * If one turns away, does he not return?* * 5Why then has this people turned away* * in perpetual backsliding?* * They hold fast to deceit;* * they refuse to return.* * 6 I have paid attention and listened,* * but they have not spoken rightly;* *no man relents of his evil,* * saying, 'What have I done?'* *Everyone turns to his own course,* * like a horse plunging headlong into battle." * (ESV)

God's people were given divine correctives from Jeremiah & many others; warnings that they had fallen & were way off God's path. Yet, their response was denial, defense - insuring destruction. Refusing to listen, not relenting of their evil, these wild horses were stampeding deeper into sin.

*"Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD" *(vs. 9).

Guilty of greed, ignoring and twisting God's word and worshipping other gods, they strapped on a target and dared the Almighty to strike.

* Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?* * No, they were not at all ashamed;* * they did not know how to blush.* * Therefore they shall fall among the fallen;* * when I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the LORD." *(vs. 12)

Let us learn from these fools. Let us confess our own frequent foolishness - barren backsliders (vs. 5, 13). Let us not pretend all is well if we are abusing, presuming on God's grace.

*"Even the stork in the heavens knows her times,* *and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming,* * but my people know not the rules of the LORD." *(vs. 7)

"Knowing" refers to keeping, living & loving His word (Prov. 3:6). God is not punishing ignorance, but willfulness, turning a deaf ear. He still does (see Heb 12:1-7).

Kerry S. Doyal Grace Bible Church, an EFCA Making disciples of Jesus who love God & others by living & sharing His truth

Thursday
Aug182011

so she keeps fresh her evil...

Jeremiah paints a memorable picture of commitment among God's people. It is a skewed image of dedication that God honors - for ill.

* "As a well keeps its water fresh,* * so she keeps fresh her evil..." * (Jer. 6:7 - ESV)

Jeremiah had the unenviable task of announcing God's punishment on His hard-hearted people. They would not listen to His words (Jer. 6:17-19). Instead, they were fiercely loyal to their own whims and ways.

We read in Jeremiah 6:

6For thus says the LORD of hosts: "Cut down her trees; cast up a siege mound against Jerusalem. This is the city that must be punished; there is nothing but oppression within her. 7 As a well keeps its water fresh, so she keeps fresh her evil; violence and destruction are heard within her; sickness and wounds are ever before me. 8 Be warned, O Jerusalem, lest I turn from you in disgust, lest I make you a desolation, an uninhabited land." (ESV)

They kept their evil fresh, like a well preserves water from contaminants. They would not let their tainted ways be tainted. Tragic irony. Guarding their godlessness they were garnishing the Lord's wrath. Faithfully unfaithful, time had come to face the Lord's fierceness.

What a backwards image. What a tragic picture.

Yet, even in this is a call to repent, a word to a remnant. "Be warned," this fate is fully yours if you do not repent (vs. 8).

Sadly, they "are all stubbornly rebellious...all of them act corruptly" (vs. 28).

What sin do you protect - keep fresh? What compromise have you justified and now coddle? How have you polluted, ignored God's word?

Be warned! Be washed.

"Thus says the LORD: "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. (vs. 16)

The ancient paths are His eternal ways, the ways of His word - which are good & refresh your soul. Walk in His good ways today (see 1 John 1:5-10; Romans 12:1, 2).

*Kerry S. Doyal* - Pastor *Grace Bible Church (an EFCA)* *Kingsport, TN * ** <http://www.getgraced.org/>*www.GetGraced.org <http://www.getgraced.org/> *

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