Go and sit in the lowest place

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
(Luke 14:7-11)

Two observations for today from this passage:

Jesus noticed. He saw how certain people were choosing seats of honor for themselves. Just like Jesus noticed how certain people gave (Luke 21), Jesus takes notice of how people try to get honor for themselves. Our Lord pays attention to our lives, and He sees our intentions, both good and bad.

Choosing the best seats. These men were going into feasts, meetings, weddings, etc. and seeking the best seats. In other words, they were wanting the spotlight, the accolades and the glory. They were demanding honor and respect to be paid them.

Jesus is asking us to look for the “lowest” places…the cheap seats, and if we get moved up to higher places of honor, that’s great! But what would it be like to force yourself down to the front row, and have the ushers come and say, “You don’t belong here, this isn’t your seat.”? How embarrassing and deflating!

I’ve been thinking about how we struggle with this in our relationships. Do we as husbands demand respect and honor from our wives? Are we as fathers demanding respect and honor when maybe we should try to take the lower seats first? There are times when our egos get in the way, and we make a big show of ourselves to either our kids or our wives, and we only end up looking really stupid later. We’re going around making sure people give us the respect we deserve, only later to realize where we really belong is in section 900, row Z.

That is why there are so many passages in Scripture reminding us not to think too highly of ourselves. When we try so hard to get the respect and honor we “deserve” we just end up looking foolish. We also hurt the ones we love along the way. Instead of us being hurt because someone was a little snippy, or maybe a little unkind, maybe we should go down to the lowest seats in our brain and see the situation from a different perspective. It could be that our loved ones are really burdened about something – they need compassion, understanding and listening ears, not demands for attention and respect.

So, today, men, let’s look for the cheap seats. Stop trying to demand respect and honor. People don’t respect you because you demand it, they respect you when you earn it by having a humble, servant heart.

 

Request. Response. Resolution.

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. 21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?“  She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”  22 But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with”  They said to Him, “We are able.”  23 So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”  24 And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said…   (Matt 20:20-25; NKJV)

Right after Jesus reveals His betrayal and death to the disciples, He is asked that seats of honor would be granted to two of them when Jesus comes into His kingdom.  As I said earlier, I don’t want to be too hard on these guys as we all find ourselves putting our foot in our mouths when we start thinking of ourselves first.  They were asking for the “chief seats” and I think we can get into this trap too.  It is not hard to understand why.  They see what it looks like with Roman and Jewish leadership…what the trappings of power look like.  They have been on the wrong end of things for their entire lives and now they have an opportunity to be on top.  So, through their own selfish lens, they (or should I say their mother) asks for what they want.  It is selfish and it is misguided but it is what they “wanted”.  We can make the same mistake.

Jesus responds by qualifying what they are asking.  Per the previous statement, He asks if they can endure the cup (signifying God’s wrath) and baptism He will have.  Of course, they are certain they can…though they don’t really know what they are saying.  Jesus knows and He tells them what will come to pass in the future as a result of their faithfulness but right now they can’t see past the “chief seats”.  James will drink the cup of martyrdom (Acts 12:2) and we know that many disciples of Jesus suffered a lot (even death) because of their faith.  In the moment, however, the brothers can’t see that and only want to be in a place of honor with the King…even if they don’t yet fully understand it.

The result within the immediate family (of the 12) was the other 10 becoming very displeased with the brothers.  I don’t know if they are upset because they didn’t think to ask first, because they understood what Jesus was saying of betrayal and death and were hurt these two would be so selfish or what exactly got under their skin.  The bottom line is, the brothers’ selfish behavior created division within the group and it is starting to boil over.  This is not uncommon even today.  If there is a brother who is acting selfishly or in a way that is not unifying the group, we can get upset and then we can start talking among ourselves and then we can let it boil over and great division takes place.  What we should do, however, is do what Jesus does.

This is one of my favorite images in the Bible.  As this disagreement begins to take place within the 12, what does Jesus do?  He calls them to Himself.  I picture a huddle and maybe even a group hug eventually.  But here, Jesus calls them together and He teaches for them all to learn.  That is the case with us…we all need to learn from our own and from others shortfalls and mistakes.  None of us are perfect and when another hurts us or wrongs us due to their selfish behavior…call them near and bring Jesus with you.  Talk about it, pray about it, love one another.  We all get off track and take our eye off the ball.  This will hurt when the consequence of this is against us.  But it will hurt a whole lot more if we lose a brother and we have a great example in our Savior of how to call each other close, learn from each other and love one another…God is glorified in that!

There is a lot going on in these verses but the visual in my mind from God’s word of Jesus putting His arms around His disciples, pulling them near and teaching them…redeeming them…loving them is one that brings joy, hope and peace to my heart today.  I hope it does the same for you and if you need to repent and draw someone close that you might have pushed away…do that today.  Ask for someone to help in that.  Jesus is waiting and will go too.

Honoring the Gray Head

“You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:32

“A gray head is a crown of glory; it is found in the way of righteousness.”  Proverbs 16:31

I get it, we’re all busy.  Work is crazy.  School is challenging.  The marriage is demanding.  The kids have soccer and band and football and baseball and piano lessons and, and, and… Life seems to run it’s own course and often we feel like we’re just along for the ride.  When it comes to relationships, we usually just take the natural, easy path.  We surround ourselves with those who are in similar life situations, people we share common experiences and interests with.  But are we missing something?

I first met Brother Claude just over five years ago.  Using his walker, he was making his way into the church building, every step seemed to be calculated and painful.  I shook his hand and took notice of how gnarled and twisted they were from years of arthritis. I made sure not to squeeze too tight as I didn’t want to hurt him.  I have to admit, my first thought about Claude consisted mostly of pity.  Just moving around seemed to be a difficult and monumental task.

Over the next few months I got to know more and more about Claude.  He didn’t have any family to speak of and relied on members of the church for transportation and companionship.  Eventually I invited him to lunch with the family one Sunday afternoon.  I hate to admit it, and I would have never said it out loud, but my initial involvement went something like this, “He’s a nice old man.  I’ll do a good deed and take him to lunch.”  It didn’t take long to realize that I was going to benefit from this relationships far more than he would.

Over the last few years I was blessed to spend more and time with Brother Claude.  I learned about his life, his accomplishments and his regrets.  I gained insight into the depth of his heart and his love for Christ and His people.  As his physical body failed and he lost more and more independence, he continued to look for ways to be useful in the kingdom and his hope in heaven grew stronger.

One of the greatest blessings was when he would take my hand and lead us in prayer.  In a low, humble, confident voice he would give praise and thanks to God.  I don’t recall Claude ever praying for his own comfort or healing, in fact, I don’t remember the physical concerns of this life ever crossing his lips.  He would pray for stronger faith, opportunities to serve, and for God’s glory to abound.

I could go on and on but to summarize my experiences with Brother Claude I’ll just say that, in him, I saw a living, breathing example of the word of God.  I saw faith personified in character and attitude and action.  Some lessons in life cannot be learned through reading and study.  Some lessons can only be learned through time and experience, in the classroom of life.

My encouragement today is to stop and look around.  Take notice of those people in the local body that, because of time and age,  struggle to get around.  The sister that fights to stand up for the prayer and with pain and difficulty sits back down but always has a smile and an encouraging word.  The brother that needs help to get out of bed and assistance to get into the building but would rather be worshiping the Lord than doing anything else.  Look for those individuals that have learned the lessons of life because of time and experience. Ask them to lunch, listen to their stories, and investigate the depths of their faith.

You will be blessed.

Friendship

The relationship between David and Jonathan is one of the great friendships in the bible. I Samuel 20 provides some of the clearest insight into the nature and depth of their relationship. Verse 17 says, “Jonathon made David vow again because of his love for him, because he loved him as he loved his own life.”

In chapter 20, David fears for his life and is hiding from King Saul. Jonathan sets out to verify that Saul indeed wants to kill David and they establish a code so that David will know whether he needs to run or if he can return to the city. Jonathan goes out for target practice and tells the lad that the arrows are “beyond you” signaling to David that he needs to run and hide.

In order to truly appreciate the next scene, we have to consider David’s life to this point. He was the youngest brother, relegated to watching sheep. He was told he would be the next king of Israel but there was no clear timing to when this would take place. David had a mighty victory over Goliath and was propelled to national fame. He was brought into the King’s court, only to be looked at with suspicion and envy. King Saul jerked David around with marriage proposals, eventually giving him his daughter Michal, with one condition. David had to bring 100 foreskins of the Philistines, a plan designed to get him killed. Saul continued to try and kill David resulting in a nighttime escape, leaving his bride behind him. During all this it seems that David behaved honorably, trying to serve God and trying to serve the king.

This brings us to I Samuel 20 when Jonathan, David’s best friend, confirms that his father wants to kill David. Verse 41 says, “When the lad was gone, David rose from the south side and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three times. And they kissed each other and wept together, but David the more.” The chapter ends with “Then he rose and departed, while Jonathan went into the city.” This scene breaks my heart.

As far as I can tell, the only other interaction we have between Jonathan and David is in chapter 23 when David is hiding in Horesh and Jonathan comes to him and says, “Do not be afraid, because the hand of Saul my father will not find you, and you will be king over Israel and I will be next to you; and Saul my father knows that also.” Tragically, Jonathan never has the opportunity to serve beside King David.

There are a lot of lessons we can learn from this friendship but what is on my heart is very simple. What is the significance of a best friend? Do you have a Jonathan or a David in your life? Are you actively pursuing this kind of a relationship? What barriers do we put up to prevent this kind of relationship?

Jess MacArthur

Jason Dukes

Aaron Kemple

I’m blessed to have three men in my life that are developing into Jonathan/David relationships. We have history, we have trust, we have love. They are not afraid to tell me when I’m messing up. They are not afraid to hold me accountable. They are always there to encourage me, strengthen me, and lift me up. And no matter how much time goes by between conversations, we pick right back up where we left off. What is the key to developing these relationships?

It is not a common love of football or movies. It is not similar career interests or family connections. In I Samuel 20 verse 42, Jonathan says to David, “Go in safety, inasmuch as we have sworn to each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord will be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants forever.” The Lord is between us. We all share a love for the Lord and have an unspoken oath to help each other in His service. I thank God daily for putting these men in my life.

My encouragement for today is to embrace the relationships around us. We need to let our guard down and let people in. If you have a Jonathan/David, let them know how much you appreciate them. Be brave, reach out to someone and tell them you desire this kind of relationship. Life is hard, Satan is real, and God has designed us to work together.

For an extended study on David please listen to this excellent lesson from Andy Cantrell. He makes a different and powerful application.

https://www.lakeviewchurchofchrist.org/player/509

 

 

Be Steadfast–He Will Not Forsake You

1 Let brotherly love continue… 5…For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we may boldly say:  “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:1, 5-6)

1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved….13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:1, 13)

This week, I want to focus on these verses.  I would encourage you to take time and read the entire chapters and even the books of Philippians and Hebrews.  These verses are taken out of context of larger discussions but I have used them to keep me focused in my life of service to God and others.  Because I am forgiven of my sins through the blood of Jesus and have been reconciled to God the Father…I am different.  Keeping these verses in mind helps me to remember that and remember that I am only a soujouner here even though the activiites of the world will get me off track, overwhelmed, and keep me from living “blessed” so that I can be a blessing to others.

The women in our lives are important and have a powerful impact on our lives.  Whether mothers, daughters, girl friends/friends, wives, or sisters (in Christ or by birth); the women in our lives can bring us great joy or bring us great sorrow…and visa versa us to them.  They are powerful relationships with powerful emotions.  We can even elevate them to hirer place than they should hold and we can put them at the center of lives where God belongs.  We are to honor and respect them for sure and we certainly should seek their affection, love, and approval.  However, that is not the source of our love.  That is not the source of our identitiy.  That is not the source of our contentment.  That is not the source of our hope.  We can’t start with them.

We start with our Father and our Savior.  In that, we can know that we are safe.  We can know that we are loved.  We can know that there is a greater relationship in play.  In that, we are free.  We are free to love and to offer ourselves and open ourselves up to be hurt because we have confidence in our Heavenly Father and He will not forsake us and we have confidence in our Savior and He will give us the strength needed to love no mater what…all things are possible.

This seems simple…but with real emotions, real relationships, real tragedy, real betrayal, real hurt, real problems…we can get off track and we can become toxic and so can our relationships with our women.

If we first start with God and Jesus, we can then be filled up and freed to then pour out love, grace, mercy, longsuffering as we have received it.  We can do all of that for God…to the benefit to the women in our lives.

This has been a powerful realization and shift in my life and it came at one of the darkest of times.  Since then, thought things haven’t always been easy, I have felt more full and effective in my marriage, my parenting, my fellowship…in all aspects of my life with the women in my life.

Take some time and think about how you might be putting a woman in your life where God should be, the grief it is causing you and her, and go to God and lay this at His feet and meditate on how He would want you to go for the benefit of all involved.

Read Your Own Mail

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.  But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”  Ephesians 5:22-24

I just finished listening to an excellent series of lessons on the letter to the Ephesians that Andy Cantrell delivered to the Cason Lane Church of Christ.  The link for the series is provided below.  Andy made a brilliantly simple observation when he got to chapter six verse 22.  How many generations of men have come to this passage and focused on the subjection of the wives and the headship of the husband?  How many of us anchor on this spot and then direct the focus of our relationship with our wife around our position of authority?

Who was this instruction given to?  The New Testament does not instruct the husband that he is the head of his wife.  The New Testament does not tell the husband to subject his wife to his authority.

Read your own mail!

The husband is instructed to “…love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.  So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies.”  Ephesians 5:25-28

“Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.”  Colossians 3:19

I have a feeling that if I focus on my part, showing Christ-like love to Kristine, then the headship thing will probably work itself out.

Let’s stop getting wrapped up in what everyone else “should” be doing and read our own mail.

http://www.casonlanechurch.org/sermons?title=&y=0&se=0&sv=0&sp=80

Corban

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”‘ (that is, given to God)– then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
(Mark 7:8-13)

Here in Mark 7, Jesus is having one of many run-ins with the Jewish leadership, and during this encounter He exposes their hypocrisy in how they are using their religion as a convenient excuse to mistreat their parents.

Here are a just a few quick thoughts for today.

One command of God does not offset another. They were to honor God and to give to God, but they were also to honor their parents and give to them. God does not give us contradictory commands. He does not put us in a dilemma where keeping one command would cause us to violate another.

Man’s tradition does not go before God’s commands. The Jewish leadership, not God, came up with the “corban” concept that if something was dedicated to God they could not afterward use that money or property to help mom and dad.

Honoring mom and dad involves our finances, not just our words of support. Maybe these Jews would tell mom and dad they loved them, and maybe these Jews convinced themselves they were doing God’s will, but Jesus said they were dishonoring their parents by not supporting them financially in their time of need.

With All Purity

Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.
(1 Timothy 5:1-2)

How we treat people is based upon how we view people. Look at this passage where Paul gives the evangelist Timothy advice on how to treat others. It is based upon how Timothy sees others and values them.

Treat older men like you would your dad, and older women like you would your own mother. See the younger men as your own brothers, and the younger women as your sisters. Notice this: with all purity.

If we value others as special and precious we will treat them accordingly. However, if we view others as merely objects to satisfy the desires of our flesh, then that’s how we will treat them (2 Peter 2:12-14).

How would Timothy treat a young woman in the faith “with all purity”?

He would avoid being alone with her. For one thing, it would protect against being led to sexual sin. But it would also be part of living blamelessly and above reproach. If you have a Bible study, take someone with you. If you are going on a business lunch, take someone else with you. Protect her purity, your purity and both of your reputations.

He would not ask her nor press her to do things that would violate God’s standards of purity. If he sees her as precious in the sight of God and as an image-bearer of Jesus, then he will value her body and her soul as belonging to God. Think of how Joseph behaved with Potiphar’s wife. He knew that she belonged to another man, and that he belonged to God. How he viewed her and how he viewed his relationship with God affected how he treated her (Genesis 39). Christians were called to greet each other with a “holy kiss,” which implies that there can be an “un-holy kiss.”

With all purity…that is God’s standard.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
(1 Thessalonians 4:3-8)

Before Honor Is Humility

The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise. He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding. The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility (Proverbs 15:31-33).

Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, and before honor is humility (Proverbs 18:12).

A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor (Proverbs 29:23).

For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 14:11).

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up (James 4:10).

Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “GOD RESISTS THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time… (1 Peter 5:5-6).

Before Honor Is Humility:

  • Before I will be honored, I must first have humility. If I’m going around looking to be respected and honored, I have the wrong starting point, don’t I? These passages above show us where our mindset should be, and that is on humbling ourselves before God and others.
  • Before I can truly honor others, I must first have humility. Only when we have humility can we show others the proper respect and honor God calls us to have. Otherwise it is just fake and superficial.

What is humility?

  1. Seeing the Lord in the right perspective
  2. Seeing myself in relationship to the Lord accurately.
  3. Seeing others properly in relationship to 1 and 2.

I want to illustrate this simple definition of humility with a parable of Jesus:

Luke 18:9-17 – Jesus’ parable about the two men who went up to pray.

  1. How did each man see God?
  2. How did each man see his relationship to God?
  3. How did the Pharisee see his relationship to the sinner based upon 1 and 2? Do we see how arrogant and condescending the Pharisee was toward the sinner because of his lack of humility before God?

Philippians 2:1-11 – Paul Let this mind be in you…

  1. How did Jesus see the Father?
  2. How did Jesus see His relationship to the Father?
  3. How did Jesus see us in connection to #1 and #2? Jesus looked out for our interests, not His own, because of His humility. The Father honored Jesus and highly exalted Him because of that humility.

Before honor comes humility. 

Can I Give God Something That Isn’t His Already?

We are studying the subject of giving in our adult Bible class. I’ve been thinking about a question, “Can I give God something that isn’t His already?” I have heard myself and others say often that everything we give to God is already His. We are giving Him “a portion of that with which He has richly blessed us.”

It is true that everything is God’s including all people (Psalm 24:1). The “cattle on a thousand hills” are His (Psalm 50:11). He is not worshiped with men’s hands, because He doesn’t need anything (Acts 17:25). Giving is not about “appeasing the gods” like in other religions. God doesn’t need our stuff to survive.

Giving is about the will…MY will

God gave to me my own free will. It is mine. I can offer to the Lord, or I can keep it to myself. Even Jesus demonstrated in the Garden of Gethsemane that He had His own will. He offered that will as a sacrifice to glorify His Father. “Not My will, but Yours be done” (Mark 14:36). Jesus said once that His “food” was to do the will of His Father (John 4:34; see also John 5:30; 6:38-39).

When the 24 elders fell before the throne of God in heaven, they said:

“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:11).

Think about that statement. God is “worthy” to receive glory and honor and power. Wait a minute…He is God, right? Doesn’t He have all of that stuff already?

He does not “receive” that from most of humanity, does He? He is worthy enough to receive it for sure, but the fact remains that He does not receive it. Jesus healed 10 lepers, only one came back to say, “Thank you” (Luke 17:17). Do I give God the honor, or do I keep it for myself? Is God glorified by every cell in my body, or do I keep the glory for me? Does God receive the power over my life? Am I sacrificing my will to give Him full control?

“Your will be done on earth…” (Matthew 6:10)

Being thankful is a sacrifice, because it involves my will (Psalm 50:14,15,23). Praising God is also a sacrifice for the same reason (Hebrews 13:15). Our favorite subject is ourselves…just look at social media. We love to talk about ourselves. Taking time to thank and praise someone else takes away the spotlight from us.

You see, you can offer God millions of dollars and offer Him lots of religious time, but have you given Him the one thing that is yours…your will? Jesus said that in order to truly follow Him, we must “deny” ourselves (Matthew 16). Again, that involves your will, the one thing God gave to you that is yours. Will you offer it to Him freely?