Thursday, June 30, 2011

Enthusiasm and Hard Work

I’m not the kind of person who wears her heart on her sleeve. In fact, I’m pretty low key about my emotions, although they’re in there somewhere. I’m also low key about other things. For instance, I can work hard at something if it’s caught my interest or if I have to, but I usually do it at a fairly slow pace. I'll be honest. I'm often too lazy to work hard or to get excited.

So this verse is difficult for me. Don't be lazy. Work hard and serve God enthusiastically. It comes in the middle of other admonitions to do things with passion.

Love sincerely
Hate wrong
Hold tightly to good
Love genuinely
Delight in honoring others
Rejoice in confident hope
Be patient in trouble
Pray without ceasing
Practice hospitality eagerly

I am passionate about things I care deeply about. A friend at work used to call me Piranha Woman because I could get really intense about issues I thought were important. I do that sometimes when I’m debating issues about God. But my enthusiasm is strategic. I only get excited about a few things. This verse tells me to be passionate about serving God, so I’ll work hard at the things He gives me to do.

I can learn a lot about this from my daughter. While our church was advertizing VBS, Eryn looked around and saw that most of the churches in our area (and there are a lot of them) are doing the same VBS program we are. She started reminiscing about the Marketplace 29 AD program our old church did and got excited about proposing it to our pastor. She threw herself into researching and wrote a good proposal within a day. She called me every half hour with ideas and questions. She called the assistant pastor at the old church for advice. She wrote up a proposal booklet and looked for pictures and websites. She essentially dropped everything else to work on this project.

Now that’s enthusiasm and hard work.

I should also throw myself into God’s service and do it with excitement and a passion to please Him.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Walking Between God and Others

The more I read the Old Testament, the more I see what an example Israel is to Christians. Often they are an example of what not to do or how to displease God. But God’s conversation with them is also what He is saying to me.

God said: Obey me, do everything as I say, then I’ll be your God and you’ll be my people and all will be well.

But they didn’t listen and they stubbornly did what they wanted, following their evil desires. They went backward, not forward.

My relationship with God requires obedience to everything He says to do. I can’t do what I want because it’s evil. That sets me back in my relationship with him.

I have a choice. I can get closer to Him by obeying. Or I can draw away from Him by doing what I want.

I guess I’d better know what He wants.

It’s not sacrifices. It’s not empty rituals. It’s not doing things because that’s what Christians do.

The Micah verse says what God requires of His people:

Do what is right. The Hebrew word used here is mishpat. It means justice, or being fair to others. When I think about it, I’m not fair to others when I’m focused on myself. That is when I am critical of their words or actions. It’s when I see the specks in their eyes. God wants me to look at Him instead of myself and then I’ll do what is right.

Love mercy. The Hebrew word is khesed. It means undeserved loyalty, or being good to others even though they don’t deserve it. If I’m honest, I’ll admit that others probably deserve to be treated better than I might think they do. But even if they don’t deserve it, I should be nice, and kind, and polite, and thoughtful.

Walk humbly with God.  Humility is necessary for mishpat and khesed. The opposite is arrogance or thinking I’m better than others. So God wants me to always be aware of His righteousness and to think of others as better than myself.

Obeying God is staying in right relationship with others by thinking of them as better than myself and treating them well.

God wants me to always walk between Him and others.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Eternity At Stake

I am blessed with such a rich heritage. Generations of missionaries on one side. Generations of pastors on the other. I believe this heritage gives me an awesome responsibility to love and serve God.  Jesus said that much is required of those to whom much has been given.

Solomon had that responsibility too. After all, he was David’s son and heir. He was blessed to receive really good advice from his father when he was getting ready to ascend the throne.

Obey all God’s commands carefully.

Okay, this isn’t new advice. Every Christian should obey God’s commands. But let’s look at it from the viewpoint of an heir. The king was responsible for the whole land. He had to be a good steward so he could leave it to his children.

Like Solomon, I have an inheritance that I’m responsible for, a spiritual heritage that I will leave to my children and grandchildren. I must guard it and care for it.

So what is this heritage?

Knowledge from childhood about Jesus, His love and salvation
Love for the Word
Knowing how to pray
The importance of the Church
A loving and supportive family
Hope for the future

But to continue to possess His gifts, I have to obey His commands. I’ll lose them if I don’t take care and then I won’t be able to pass them on to the next generations. Disobedience leaves me in danger of throwing them away or losing them.

So I must follow David’s advice to his son Solomon. Learn to know God intimately and worship and serve Him with your whole heart and willing mind. Obedience is mental and emotional, and I should do both with all I’ve got.

Another way to look at it is that God knows my every thought and plan. If I seek Him, I’ll find Him. If I forsake Him, He’ll reject me – forever.

It’s not just my heritage and the gifts of God that are at stake here. It’s God Himself. Obedience to God’s commands is how I worship and serve God with my whole heart and mind. Either I continually look for Him or I’ll drift away from Him and lose Him – and His gifts.

Eternity is at stake here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

God is Good All the Time

God is incomparable. His righteousness is huge. He has done wonderful things.

Two of the wonderful things God has done are to guide me and to allow me to suffer.

He guides me on the best path for my life and that includes suffering. But even in the midst of it, He advises and watches over me. In fact, His unfailing love surrounds me.

After letting me suffer, He promises to restore me to life again. He will comfort me again.

I’m not suffering right now. In fact, I’m pretty content with my life. Suffering seems pretty distant. But a lot of the people I love are suffering. I think one thing that matters about these passages right now, is that they make me mindful of the suffering of others. And as I pray for them, I can be confident that God will restore them to life.

The friend that is sick unto death will not die. The one who is emotionally drained will be happy again. The one who is fighting addiction will be healed. The one who is grieving will find peace. The one who is angry and hurt will be filled with love.
More importantly, they will rejoice in Him and be glad. One day I will shout for joy with them.

Beyond the suffering, these passages are really about how wonderful God is. The words are emotional, passionate:

Praise Him
Rejoice in Him
Be glad
Shout for joy

When I’m praying for my friends, I need to release my emotions and get excited because of what He’s promised. Praise Him because He’s faithful to His promises.

I think “life” means happiness in Him. When He restores us to life I get excited. I’m glad God is who He is and He does what He does.

Life is good. God is good.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Remember Your Creator

Dear young believers,
Right now you have lots of energy and life is exciting. Don’t let that draw you away from God. Now is the time to love Him. Use your energy for Him.
Sincerely, Solomon

Even though no one believes my age when I tell them, I’m getting old. So this advice isn’t for me. But by God’s grace, I was raised in a Christian home and came to know Him at a young age. A lot of missionary kids rebel when they come to the States, but I never doubted or turned away from the faith I was raised with. I remembered God when I was young and I’ve walked with Him my whole life.

So I should pass my experience on to the young. I have lots of opportunities to do this.

Teach my grandchildren:  It’s natural to teach them little rules of behavior, like using a napkin and saying please. But teaching them about God takes a little more thought. They know to pray at meals, but am I conscious of how my words teach them to be intimate with God? When I read books to them, do I encourage them to choose Bible stories? Do I tell them how much God loves them? I have so much to teach them.

Teach Sunday School and Vacation Bible School:  I’m not always excited about teaching. Sometimes it seems like more work than I want to do. And in class I feel like I spend more time saying “Be quiet and listen” than I do teaching. But those children are precious to God (and to me) and I want them to know Him. I need to pray for them before I teach and focus on what I want them to learn about our Lord.

Support the youth group:  I’ve been a youth group leader, but presently I don’t really have much interaction with the youth at our church. But there are plenty of times when the leaders ask for support. Even if all I do is make cookies for a meeting, I’m helping someone else teach them to remember God in their youth. 

I recently saw a lot of old friends at a wedding. Naturally we talked about our kids, most of whom I taught in Sunday School when they were younger. Now they are young adults and, sadly, some of them are on what one parent called a “sideways track.” They have temporarily forgotten their Creator. I’m sad about that and I can, and do, pray for them. But how much better if they had not gone down this road. 

I want to do everything I can to help the children and youth that are in my life now to remember Him always.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


My whole body longs for you in this parched and thirsty land.

After living in Massachusetts where it snows all winter and rains all summer, I’ve forgotten what it was like to live in Southern California which is semi-arid. But I’m starting to remember now. It’s been over a month since it rained and it’s been in the nineties all that time. My grass is dry and my flowers are droopy. I have to water every night. I think about the cost of water, but it’s necessary if I don’t’ want my plants to die.

Sometimes I feel like I’m in a drought too. I need to soak up Jesus, the Living Water every day. One of my favorite passages to meditate on when I feel dry is John 14:1-3.

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. 

But even while I soak up His love, I should ponder the cost. I should remember that Jesus’ love brought Him to the cross.

Jesus also satisfies me better than the richest feast. When I eat junk food, I’m only satisfied for as long as I’m eating it. When I eat fruit, I’m satisfied for a little while and I know it’s nourishing me. When I eat a good meal I’m satisfied longer, but eventually I have to eat again. Jesus is better than the good meal, He satisfies completely and continually. I can draw on that by praising Him continually.

And Jesus is there when I lie awake. I had pretty bad insomnia last night. I lay awake and then got up, then lay awake, then got up. It’s a good opportunity to think about God, undistracted by anything except a tired fog.  I prayed for a couple of people. I read an article in Christianity Today and pondered it. But I should have meditated on God. How much better to use that time to draw closer to Him and let Him satisfy me, even in the fog.

The more I think about God, and the more I praise God, the more satisfied I will be. I won’t be thirsty, hungry or tired.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


God’s people are those who fear the Lord and always think about the honor of His name. He calls them His own special treasure and He spares them from judgment.

About six months ago, the diamond fell out of my wedding ring. It was only a little one because Wayne didn’t have much when he asked me to marry him. But I’ve always treasured it and didn’t want a bigger one, even when we could afford it. I kept wearing the ring without the diamond because I’ve gained weight and my knuckle has swollen so I couldn’t take it off. Yesterday, I finally had the ring cut off. I know it doesn’t make me any less married, but it feels funny. I treasure the ring and the commitment Wayne made to me when he put it on my finger. In fact, the ring is a symbol that I am Wayne’s treasure.

I love that God uses marriage as a symbol of His relationship to His Church. We are His treasure, just like I’m Wayne’s treasure.

And that love of God is the difference between the righteous and wicked.

So how should I respond to this amazing favor? Of course I respond with love, like I do to Wayne. But there’s more to my relationship with God, because He is God.

I should fear Him. He is the righteous judge. When I was first married, and my only responsibility was caring for our home, I used to spend all day reading or swimming or doing other fun things. Then, about an hour before Wayne was due home, I ran around cleaning and getting supper ready. I was a little afraid he’d be mad if he knew I hadn’t taken care of my responsibilities. I should feel that way about God. He’s given me work to do and I should do it to please Him, but also to not displease Him.

I should always think about honoring and respecting Him. He should always be on my mind, like a newlywed always thinking about her love. I should always be thinking about how wonderful He is and how I can please Him.

Because I'm His special treasure, He makes me righteous and spares me from judgement.

Speaking of treasure, my relationship with God is like two sides of a coin – one side is righteousness which keeps me from judgment, the other is fearing and honoring God.

One side God does, the other side I do; the whole coin is the treasure.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Name of God

My given name is Phyllis. When I choose to use it, it identifies me. It’s a tag. There are others with my name, so it isn’t unique to me. It means green leaf, but that only matters because I made it matter. (Any guesses about the significance of the design and verse of this blog?) My parents didn’t know what it meant when they named me. They chose it because they liked the way it sounded.

What does it mean to honor God for the glory of His name? His name is “I am.” His name is who He is. His name is His self.

The meaning of God’s name matters because it is Him. It’s not just a tag. It tells us who He is. He is self-existent. No one named Him because no one made Him. He just is.

According to, glory means very great praise, a source of honor, fame, or admiration or adoring praise. God’s name is a source of admiration and deserves very great praise.

Honor means high respect. Since God’s name is His character, respecting His name means respecting Him. The Jews don’t say His name. It’s too holy. I toss it around to show I’m intimate with Him, but I should be more careful to show respect.

So essentially, honoring God’s name is the same as worshiping Him. It means to admire, praise and respect Him.

The great thing about focusing on His name is that the Bible gives us lots of names for Him and that helps me see different aspects of Him. It helps me understand Him better.

To start with He’s : Lord, Provider, Bread of Life, Good Shepherd, Living Water, Suffering Servant, the Door, Savior, Sanctifier.

Here’s a longer list of His names:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Kneeling to Worship

When I was a kid, I knelt by the bed to say my prayers. I seldom do that anymore. Kneeling hurts my knees. But I can see why it’s an important physical expression. It takes away my self-confidence. I can’t do much from a kneeling position. I’m dependent and awkward. When I kneel, I lower myself before Him.

But these verses, like so many others, are plural. It calls for us to worship and bow down. It’s not individual; I’m one of many. So worship is corporate. 

I occasionally attend a service at a Catholic church – usually a wedding or funeral. The churches are usually quite pretty, but the kneelers in the pews are a bit of a nuisance. When they’re up, I’m not sure if it’s okay to put my feet on them, but they don’t leave room to stretch out. Putting them up and down is a little awkward too, especially since they affect everyone in the pew. But I really like kneeling with everyone else. It’s a physical expression of worship that’s much more comfortable to me than raising my hands. It somehow helps me enter into God’s presence without concern for the reactions of those around me. We do it together.

When we worship, we lower ourselves and exalt God. His exalted nature reveals our humble position. He is our creator and He has a purpose for us. So one aspect of worship is acknowledging His control over our lives.

The image here is of the shepherd who watches over His flock. He cares for us. There’s a security in following the Shepherd that frees us to kneel. We can be in that helpless position because He’s guarding us and we don’t have to think of anything but Him.

When I truly worship, I lose my self-focus before His reality and do it with the rest of His flock.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Good Plans

God’s plans for me are good. The creator of the universe has specific plans to do good to me.

Most of my life has been filled with goodness. I had a friend in college who told me I was the kind of person whose peanut butter sandwich always fell right side up. So most of the time I know God’s plans are good. 

But sometimes I look at people I know who are suffering. The friend who lost her son at a young age. The one who’s going through weeks of chemo. The lonely, grieving widow. The couple who are learning to live with the devastating results of an accident. It’s harder to believe God has good plans for them. That’s when I remember how God worked good in Neal’s life.

It certainly seemed like a disaster when he was lying in the hospital bed dying; when the cancer came back and he had to have a second transplant; when it came back again.

But God gave him a future and a hope. Neal has done the two things he really wanted – graduated from college and gotten married. God listened when we prayed and His mercies were new every morning. He was always there when we looked for Him. He ended Neal’s captivity and restored his fortunes – beyond anything we could have imagined. He brought him home – from the hospital, from the results of stroke, from the cancer clinic. He brought him home to Ruthanne.

He gave Neal and Ruthanne their own land. I can believe He will do the same for everyone else who trusts Him because He loves them. That is something worth praying for.

For Neal

The One
Who knows you best
Is the One
Who loves you best
Is the One
Whose plans are best
Is the One
Who’s best able
To do what He deems best
To prosper
Not to harm
To give you hope
And a future

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Serve the Only God

The God of Israel is the only God. There is no other. He always has been the only God and always will be. Now here’s the amazing part. The only God chose Israel:

To be His servant
To know Him
To believe in Him
To understand that He’s the only God

No wonder there are lots of religions. No one else gets it because God didn’t choose them. On the other hand, Israel is God’s witness. They are the ones who testify about who God is. So the world can know God because He has revealed Himself to Israel. 

The whole world must turn to Him for salvation. There isn’t any other salvation to be found. In the end, everyone will kneel before Him and pledge allegiance to Him. He said it, so it’s going to happen.

I’m not Jewish, but as a Christian, I stand in an awesome privileged place. He chose Christians too and grafted us into the tree that has a Jewish root. 

But note the tense. He’s not talking to individuals; he’s talking to the nation of Israel (or the Church). As a believer, I’m part of the Body of Christ. I can’t know, believe in or serve God by myself. I can only do it within the Church. My belief in God is strengthened when my knowledge of Him increases. That happens in church through sermons, prayers and Bible Study.

I serve God by bringing the people He brings into my life into the fellowship of the Church. I can’t just witness to them and leave them foundering. They need to make friends with other Christians so they can see Jesus in us all. Further, if I’m going to invite people to church, then I need to help make sure there are events to bring them to. And if other people bring someone to church, I should be friendly to them. I have a responsibility to help make the church welcoming.

There’s only one God and He wants to use me to get the message out. Amazing.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Sure Promise

If someone wanders away from the truth

They can be brought back.

They can be saved from death.

They can be forgiven for many sins.

I can be sure of this.

Wayne has a list of family members that he prays for daily. He calls them his “twenty-two.” I’m inspired by his love for his family and his commitment to them. He believes they’re running out of time because Jesus is coming back. The great thing is that the promises in this passage are about some of the people he’s praying for. God’s going to answer those prayers.

The other night I dreamed about someone I know who has wandered from the truth. When I woke up I prayed for him and I realized that he has always been the leader in his family. When he comes back to the Lord, the others will follow.

He’s a good man. He’s a good friend, a hard worker and loves his family. But he abandoned God a long time ago. He’s living the American dream and he’s spiritually empty. I’m going to pray for him – and his family as a corollary – daily. It’s good to know that my prayers will be effective because God wants to answer them. 

What a promise.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Not Alone in the Garden

God wants me to be a person of prayer.

There are lots of mnemonics we use to remember the different kinds of prayer, like ACTS and PETAL. This passage suggests one that isn’t quite so memorable: SPIC

SUPPLICATION: Pray about hardships I’m suffering. Ask God to do something about them.
PRAISE: Sing praises when I’m happy.
INTERCESSION: Ask the elders to pray over me when I’m sick
CONFESSION: Confess my sins to other Christians and ask them to pray for me; pray for them in the same way.

The promise is that my prayers will be powerful if I pray earnestly and if I’m righteous. I’ve never really believed that promise was for me. After all, the example James gives is Elijah. Of course God answered Elijah’s prayers. He was one of the greatest prophets. In fact, God’s sending him back to prepare the world for Jesus’ return. It’s not a great surprise that when he prayed for drought, it happened, and that when he prayed for it to end, it ended.

I know I don’t have to worry about the righteousness half of the equation. I’m righteous because God made me so by the blood of Jesus. But I don’t think I’m usually that earnest when I pray. Elijah’s life was at stake when he poured water on the altar and then asked God to light it on fire. He needed his prayer answered. I don’t have that kind of urgency when I pray.

It’s so easy to toss off a quick prayer, especially when someone asks me to pray for them. “Sure. Did you hear that God? That’s what I ask for.” But even little requests are important to God.

I think sincerity means entering into the request. Before I pray, I should understand the person and the problem. I should try to relate it to my own experience to try to know what they really need and talk to God about them as if it were my problem.

If your child is sick, I’ll remember how I felt when mine was. If you need a job, I’ll think about the times I’ve worried about finances. If you’re lonely, I’ll ask God to remove that aching I’ve felt at times.

Then I can be confident God will answer my prayers. Not because of how I’ve prayed, but because He promised to hear and answer.

Prayer isn’t just my communion with God. It involves others. God always brings me back to thinking of others. I can’t stay in the garden alone with Him.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Eye of the Needle

Here’s a scary thought: by the world’s standards, I’m rich. I should know, since I grew up seeing poverty that most Americans wouldn’t imagine. No, having a nice house and two cars and lots to eat is not the scary part.

The scary part is that my riches are not only worthless in God’s economy, they’re going to used against me on judgment day. They’re proof that I cheated and oppressed Innocent people under me who didn’t resist. I should be in anguish over this.

I’ll be the first person to say that’s an extreme interpretation of the passage. I don’t really think I’m rich and I’m pretty sure I haven’t oppressed anyone.

But I am living in luxury and most of my desires are satisfied. Have I just fattened myself for the day of slaughter?

If I’m going to take this seriously, I need to ask if anyone has been oppressed or hurt by my lifestyle? I’m pretty lazy about finding out where things I buy are made or under what conditions. Maybe it’s time for me to pay attention to things like fair trade. I can check with friends who are more committed to this than I am.

Besides that, how do I use the wealth God has blessed me with? Do I give enough? Do I use it to help others?

I‘ve been really burdened for the people of Alabama and Missouri and Massachusetts who have lost everything in the tornadoes, and those on the Mississippi River. First God put them on my heart so I could pray. Now I think He’s asking me to do more. He’s recently given us extra money so we can give. I’m really glad that I can, but I need to ask God to keep me aware of how Wayne and I use our resources. I want to be more than a good steward. I want to live a life of sacrifice.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Successful Plans

James 4:13-17

For a procrastinator, I’m pretty confident in my ability to get things done. That makes the warning in this passage pretty pointed. Confidence in my plans and their completion is arrogance – evil.

The warning against making plans is really against boasting about them. It’s not necessarily telling others how great a planner I am, but it’s an attitude of confidence in my own abilities.
When I make a plan and say I will do it and that it will work out a certain way – usually to my benefit - I’m boasting about my ability to plan and to carry it out.

I volunteer to plan a ladies fellowship at church, confident that it will be successful and all the ladies will have a wonderful time. But I’ve planned a few that had less than a handful of women attend.

I write a detailed lesson plan for my class, confident that my students will learn poise and confidence when they give their speeches. But the lesson takes a lot less time than I expected and I find myself facing restless, bored students with a half hour to fill.

Wayne and I have had failures of even bigger plans. Our life is like the fog; it’s short and ephemeral. I don’t know when it will end, what twists it will take, or what will happen tomorrow or even later today. I don’t know when I’ll get that phone call that will turn it upside down.

So I should submit all my plans to God for His approval. I should always remember that He is in control, not me. All my plans should be contingent on His will.

I shouldn’t boast about my plans, but submit them to God’s will, because if I don’t, I’m sinning
I don’t think this means I shouldn’t make plans. It’s usually better to be prepared. But I should try not to be so confident in myself that I boast (even to myself). Instead, I need to submit my plans to God in humility. Then my confidence will be in Him and He will make them succeed.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Don't Judge

James 4:11 & 12

Be nice; don’t gossip; don’t criticize.

Don’t speak evil against my brother or sister.

Okay, I get that and I’ve tried to be nice most of the time. But, as usual, James goes beyond the obvious. To criticize and judge other Christians is to criticize and judge the law.

Wait. That seems opposite. When I judge anyone for how they’ve kept the law, it seems like I’m upholding it, not judging it. If I speak up when you tell a lie, I’m pointing out that the law has been broken. I’m defending it and standing up for God’s ways.

But what I’m really doing is playing God. It’s His law and He’s the only one who can use it to judge people. When I judge, I’m interpreting the law and applying it to others. I’m saying “this is what it means and you’re not doing it.”

Since He’s the judge, only God can say if someone has broken the law. Only God can say whether they need to repent and only He can save them if they do.

So it’s none of my business when someone else breaks the law. My job is to obey the law; it applies to me. I can obey it in the confidence that this is what God wants me to do.

Sometimes I’m like the kid who asks “what about him?” when he’s being disciplined. The parent answers, “Don’t worry about him. You just do what I asked you to do.”

Jesus told the parable about the master who hired workers to work in his field. He agreed with them on a salary and they went to work. Later in the day he hired some more for the same salary and later, even more. When they all got paid at the end of the day, the ones who started earlier thought they would get paid more. But the master paid each group what they agreed to. He told them not to worry about the others. Each man’s salary was between him and the master.

So, don’t criticize my brother or sister. Don’t worry about whether they are obeying God. I should just make sure I’m obeying.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

God's Enmity

James 4:4-10

When I read this passage, I asked what the world is and what I love that I shouldn’t. Is it talking about the self-indulgent pleasures I acknowledged in the last passage? Or at least the ones that aren’t good for me? Food, books, TV, relationships . . . I can see the world in a lot of my life and I need to work to remove it. But I think this passage is about something deeper.

God’s enemy is the world. God is jealous when I’m friends with the world because that makes me an adulterer and His enemy.

Adultery: As a member of the Church, I am Jesus’ bride. He rightly expects my complete love. I should not love anything or anyone other than Him. In fact, He’s jealous when I love the world.

Enmity: The world is characterized by pride. Pride was the devil’s sin – he wanted to be like God. The world is his, so when I love the world, I am participating in his sin of pride. Pride is thinking more highly of myself than I deserve. It is putting myself in a position where I don’t belong; putting myself in God’s place.

The only other option is to humble myself before God, by the grace He gives me. When I resist the devil and the sin of pride, he will flee and I will be able to humbly approach God. Then God will come close to me.

This is a very serious matter. It’s the battle for my soul and I need to understand how important it is to God. My pride, my love of the world, is so serious that it fills God with envy and makes me His enemy. That should give me sorrow and deep grief. The scariest thing that could happen to me is for God to oppose me. That would cause eternal grief.

“Lord, help me to see my pride in all its ugly manifestations today. Give me the grace to humble myself before you and weep over my sin. Teach me to hate the world and to give all my love to You. In the name of Jesus who gave His life for me, even when I was full of pride, Amen.”

Monday, June 6, 2011

No Pain, No Pain

James 4:1-3

Jealousy again. In a way, it’s comforting to know it has always been a problem among Christians and I’m not the only one. It’s the cause of fighting among us. We want what others have and fight to get it instead of asking God for it.

But, of course, it’s not enough to ask; we must ask with the right motives. We don’t get what we ask for because we only want what will give us pleasure.

I see two ways of looking at this principle.

First, I should want something other than pleasure.

I think “like” is a pretty big word in my vocabulary. I read, eat, watch TV, cuddle my cat and hang out with friends because I like doing those things. They’re pleasurable. So what is more valuable, more important than pleasure? Wisdom, health, strength, love. Trying for any of these things might be painful or self-denying. Lots of time it is not pleasurable.

For example, eating lots of chocolate is pleasurable, but not healthy. So if I want good health, I’ll deny myself the sweets. But if I just want to enjoy myself, I’ll eat the chocolate. It’s hard to walk away from chocolate, but I need to learn to want good health more.

The second way to look at it is that I shouldn’t want pleasure for me.

Instead of asking God for something for me, I should intercede on behalf of the people around me. Instead of asking God to give me something my neighbor has, I should ask God to bless my neighbor even more. Eventually, He will change my heart so that what I want is my neighbor’s blessing instead of the things my neighbor has.

When I see something I want that someone else has, whether it is tangible like a swimming pool or intangible like praise or attention from others, I should stop and ask God to bless the person who has it. Keep them safe when they swim or let the pool be a way of bringing their family together. Let the attention they’re getting bless their hearts so that they can let their love flow out to others.

I have a long way to go, but I know the key to changing my heart is prayer. The more time I spend in God’s presence, the more I will think about Him instead of me. The more I pray for others, the more I will think about them instead of me.