Safety for the Ensnared

20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:20-26; NKJV)

I was thinking about standing next to Jesus in our safe house as we discussed earlier in the week and looking at those out in harms way who seem to want to come in but can’t or won’t.  I was thinking about why that is and verse 26 came to mind…about how the devil sets snares for us and how he takes us captive and how hard it can be to believe we can be free again.  How many people have I talked to who are in this situation.

In reading the verses above, Paul describes how we should be as we abide in Jesus, follow Him and share the gospel in the world.  How we should be a vessel of honor, sanctified (set apart for a godly purpose) and be useful to the Master!

In considering this, there are things we should do and things we should avoid.

In terms of our personal conduct, we must cleanse ourselves of false doctrine or what the world wants to teach us; we must flee youthful lusts and mature in the faith past the lust of the flesh or lust of the eyes avoiding wicked associations and wicked conduct.

What we should do is pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace which are qualities we must have if we want to see Jesus and qualities suited for a man of God.  We should call on the Lord out of a pure heart together with those who sincerely love God and remember we are not alone.  In our personal conduct we must seek both holy conduct and holy associations.

In terms of our interpersonal relations, we should avoid foolish and ignorant disputes that generate strife, bring ruin to the hearers, and increase to more ungodliness.  We must not quarrel which is to fight over words (war of words; dispute) avoiding discussions that are little more than word battles.

What we should do is be gentle to all mild or kind, be able to teach (exhort and convict those that contradict), be patient especially in avoiding word battles.  We should correct in humility with gentleness, meekness, and mildness even against those that oppose the truth and are ensnared by the devil…they might be just a step away to coming in to safety.  We must develop and demonstrate a Christ-like character toward the opposition.

In doing so, they will know exactly what to expect when they step inside the safe house.  The same words you have used about Jesus reflect your actions toward Jesus and the actions of those with like-minded faith and they will represent the Savior and who He is in our lives…and will be in theirs.  There are a lot of people trapped by satan who want to take that last step into safety…will we have compassion and reach out…just as Jesus reached out to us?

What Needs to Go Down

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee.

The words of that hymn comfort many oft troubled hearts. In it, the petition for God to be near and the assurances that He will be near can make every darkness a light and every sorrow a joy.

And Scripture says that anyone can come. James says that anyone can draw near to God and that when they do, He will draw near to them (4:8). Peter said that anyone “in every nation who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:35). And Paul said that God is not far from anyone, wherever in the world they may be, for if they “grasp for Him, [they will] find Him” (Acts 17:24–28). Usually, it is the barriers that we create that broadens our distance from God. God wants fellowship with everyone since He aims to save everyone (1 Timothy 2:4). It is God who has forged the way for anyone who would come and be saved, “for all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21) – and that means you and me.

So, what can we do to remove those barriers and find that true communion and closeness with God?

We only get close through humility. He’s no superstar Rockstar being harassed for a signature or a selfie. He’s the Creator of the universe who sees who we are before we ever come – and still calls us to come. That’s why James tells us to “cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord…” (4:7-10). He’s already there with hand outstretched to “lift you up” even when He sees who we are.

And that same humility will help us get closer as we overcome sin. We have been assured that when we resist the Devil, he will flee. But resistance is washing the scent of it from our hands. It is filling our eyes with the tears of its pain. And when we do, we find solace in the heart of God because we have seen sin in us fir what it really is (Gal 5:19–21; 1 John 2:3–4). Once forgiven, God will lift us to no longer regret, no longer remember, and no longer reminisce because in the light of His presence, we will welcome His brightness in our every darkness.

Humility is making yourself “low” in comparison and as Vine’s calls it, “lowliness of mind.” Just as mountains were “brought low” (Luke 3:5) and Christ “emptied himself” (Philippians 2:7), Christians should lower themselves before God to draw near to Him.

Yet, in our culture as men, we have been taught to earn our place, position ourselves and never admit defeat.

And we wonder why closeness with God – in true communion and relationship – evades us?  When humility shows us our place before the Creator as sinners and exposes the needs of others in our view above and beyond our own, we can come down. Mind you, this is not to say we are “down on yourself” or any such thing. Instead, it is the awakening of spirit to see how far up we must go to be anything like God. But with each self-view before the Creator and with others, we inch ever closer – on step at a time – closer to God. And we will find Him.

So, start with humility. Scripture affirms it; recommends it; and commands it.

What needs to go down is me.  It’s the place to begin: Down. Because only in going down can it be possible that God will lift us up.

Overcoming Our Ego, Part 2

Last Tuesday, we took a look at our egos, and some signs our egos are getting in the way. You may call ego something like “pride” or “selfish ambition” from a Biblical perspective.

Here are some additional thoughts about our desire to get the credit, the praise and the approval.

We are complete in God through Jesus Christ, period (Colossians 2:10). If man’s praise, acceptance and approval have become our obsession, it is a sign that we are not truly and safely resting in the grace and shelter of God’s arms. Yes, it is great to have the acceptance and approval of others, but that must not be our end goal, because that is such an empty, vain and painful way to live. It will make others around you miserable, too. What are you and I lacking in our relationship with God that we seek to fill with the praise of others?

At a practical level…today:

  • Pray for God to keep our big mouths shut. Enough said. Keeping it shut when we are right. Keeping it shut when someone tells us something we already know…aargh, this is tough.
  • Do things around the house and for our wives without telling them we did it. Yikes, is this possible? Read Matthew 6:1-4, 16-21.
  • Have a chat over coffee and in prayer with a wise godly man who can help you navigate these thoughts. Find a mature man who is comfortable in his own skin because of Jesus.
  • Let’s do some meditation, prayer and study on the grace of God, and that in Him through Jesus Christ we are fully accepted. “The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want.” If we never feel good enough, we will seek man’s praise, but if our sufficiency is truly from God, then one day man’s praise won’t be so attractive to us.

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
(2 Corinthians 3:1-6)

Overcoming Our Ego, Part 1

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?
(James 4:1)

Here are a few questions about what we call the ego. This article is not intended to answer all these questions fully. 

  • What is the “ego”? (It is not a pre-made waffle that you put in the toaster, that’s spelled EGGO).
  • What is a biblical way of describing the ego?
  • How does my “ego” and the need to care for and tend it affect my marriage?

When do we see our egos raise their ugly heads and cause problems?

When we feel insecure or not good enough. Your wife is complimenting someone else in an area where you are not as strong or talented. How you deal with that? Her father is really good at something that you’re not very good at, and it isn’t that your wife is reminding you of that, it’s just that you are having a hard time with your own insecurity.

When we are criticized or corrected. Certainly criticism and correction can be done in a way that really hurts and stings, but what if the correction is done in love, do you receive it well? Do you have to remind the one correcting you of his or her faults so that you can feel better (or so that we can all feel equally awful/guilty)? Is always being right or always looking good more important than our spiritual growth and having healthy relationships?

When someone else gets credit for your idea/work. If our egos are in the way, we can really let this destroy us. Because of our pride, we are driven to be noticed and credited for our good ideas, designs and accomplishments. But can we be okay if we do not receive the kind of accolades we long for? Jesus said if we are looking for men’s praise, then we have the reward we are seeking (Matthew 6). It is not a good thing, though, because like any addiction we will keep seeking that praise and the good feelings it brings, but it never truly satisfies.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
(Philippians 2:3-5)

More to come next week, Lord willing.

Faith and Humility

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
(Matthew 15:21-28, compare to Mark 7:24-30)

What was great about this woman’s faith?

Did you see that the disciples begged Jesus to send this nagging, annoying Gentile woman away from them?

Why did Jesus use the analogy of children and dogs when referring to this woman?

Jesus wasn’t being mean or rude to this woman. He knew exactly what He was going to do, and He knew the heart of this woman already. He did not need to have this event to know the faith that was in her heart. This was a lesson for the disciples and for us. The Gentiles (non-Jewish people) were called dogs by the Jews. The Jews considered themselves as the only children of God, and disregarded anyone else as dogs. Jonah was not the only Jew that did not value the souls of Gentiles.

Jesus’ disciples were always pushing people away and sending people away, while Jesus was calling those same people to Himself. There are scores of examples of this: the children (Mark 10:13-14), the hungry crowds (Mark 6:35-36), Blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:48), and this woman we just read about in Matthew 15.

Send them away? Where is the mercy, disciples? They are hungry people, little kids, and suffering souls! Send them where? Who else has what Jesus has? Send them, why? Are you sending them away because you are bothered by them? Are you sending them away because you don’t value them or see them as Jesus sees them?

This is such a lesson for us. These disciples whom Jesus was training and transforming must understand that faith involves humility. This woman had that kind of faith. She was willing to be that dog who licks up the crumbs under the master’s table. You don’t see her asking for the left or right hand side of Jesus at His throne like the disciples were asking for. She didn’t get into arguments about who the greatest was like the disciples did. She said in her despair, “Lord help me!” This woman of great faith was willing to take any crumb Jesus could give her and she would be grateful for it. The disciples saw her as a Gentile dog woman who annoyed them, and Jesus saw a precious soul with incredible faith and humility.

How do you see others? Do our minds, hearts and eyes need to be transformed to see others (our spouses, our kids, anybody in the community) as Jesus sees them? Let us meditate upon this today and ask for God to help us see others like He helped His disciples to see.

At the Same Time My Reason Returned to Me

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
(Daniel 4:34-37)

I just love that God allowed Nebuchadnezzar’s writings to be part of Scripture. Daniel 4 is the personal record of King Nebuchadnezzar and how he was humbled before Almighty God. Because of his arrogance, he was reduced to a dumb beast eating grass for seven periods of time. At the end of that period of time, his “reason returned to him.” He gave glory and honor to God instead of to himself.

This is so true for everyone. When we take the glory and honor away from God and keep it for ourselves, our reasoning is turned to madness. Look at Romans 1:18-32 to see how Paul describes the same process. When we are lifted up in our own pride, our thoughts lead ourselves and others into total darkness and destruction. But when we humble ourselves before God, our thinking becomes clear and enlightened. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge, Proverbs teaches us.

I was listening to a sermon by Andy Cantrell about this very concept when he was preaching from Isaiah 55. God in that chapter is inviting us all to forsake our way of thinking and embrace His thoughts and His ways. And when we do, the result is life, joy and peace!

How well are your thoughts and your ways working out for you? Are you willing to become like King Nebuchadnezzar and humble yourself before God and forsake your ways of thinking? Are you willing to trade your thoughts for God’s thoughts? Then and only then will your “reason return to you.”

Who Has the Prettiest Feathers?

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
(Philippians 2:3-4)

In our relationships a lot of us like to strut around and show who has the prettiest feathers. What I mean by this is:

  • When somebody tells you something you already know, how do you respond? Do you have to make sure it is known that you already know this, and that person is not giving you any new information?
  • If someone uses your idea, do you have to make sure it is widely known that it was your idea?
  • In a dispute, do you find yourself pushing your opinion, raising your voice, interrupting, and pressing your way until the other relents and gives in?
  • If someone doesn’t do things your way, and it bombs, do you have to make sure he or she knows your advice wasn’t followed?
  • When you do good things, especially for your wife around the house, do you have to make sure she knows you did it?
  • Do you have to instantly make a conversation about you when someone starts sharing things with you? In other words, that friend is sharing a trial he or she is facing, and you instantly switch or compare to what you are going through instead of really trying to understand the other person.

Aren’t those feathers pretty?

We are not roosters or peacocks…God expects us to have a spirit of humility that was shown wonderfully in the person of Jesus Christ. If anyone could have walked around and strutted, it would have been Jesus, but He counted others as more significant to Himself.

Just a reminder that it ain’t about us.

Try restraining that urge to say, “I already know that.” See how it works. Do good deeds and don’t say anything about them (see Matthew 6). If someone uses your idea, bite your tongue and say a prayer in your head of giving glory to God (hopefully it was a good idea that you shared!). Let’s not try so hard to break our elbows patting ourselves on the back!

The GOD of the Towel–Day 3

The verses under consideration this week, John 13:1-17, concern a physical demonstration of the humble service of Jesus and a practical lesson for all of us as men. Today we are thinking about our kids…and they might be our own children/grandchildren, or nieces/nephews, or children at church, or many other circumstances we are in a position of influence in their lives.

The bottom line for today is does our “demonstrated behavior over time” match what we are called to be as humble servants in Christ? Our words matter for sure, however, if young eyes are watching and our actions are not consistent with our words or change over time, doesn’t that have a profound effect? The kids in our lives know who we are in terms of the position we hold in their lives. For the most part, kids who are taught properly know their position in relation to those older than them and the respect and attention they ought to provide. They have expectations of us. They want to see what right looks like. They are going to assume what you are doing is what right looks like. So we ought to be careful to ensure we are not only talking about being humble servants in Christ Jesus but acting that way too. Again, they are watching!

Jesus taught extensively using the spoken word. What Jesus also did was amplify and solidify His lessons in His actions. We see that in this passage. In verses 4-5, Jesus gets up to serve and in doing so to teach. This action was not inconsistent with His teaching and was not inconsistent with the other actions He took in His ministry. It is a beautiful scene and is a continuance of what He had already done in Heaven…it is what Peter wasn’t yet going to understand…but when Peter had matured and grown up spiritually, the lesson would be profound. Just as Jesus rose up, laid aside His physical clothes, took a towel, girded Himself and went forth to cleanse their feet…He had rose from His kingly throne in Heaven, laid aside His royal garment, took on the towel of humanity, and ultimately poured out His precious blood making it possible for us to be cleansed! Jesus consistently demonstrated humble service and though not everyone understood this, they were not going to be able to find fault in it and/or any version of His words/actions that didn’t match or wasn’t consistent.

Also notice Peter’s words. “Lord, are You…”. Peter knew who Jesus was. “…washing my feet?”. Peter knew who he was…and as we know from the passage didn’t think it appropriate that Jesus be doing what He was about to do. Peter’s pride dictates the terms…but Jesus’ humble attitude and mission of service remained the same and He wasn’t going to alter that because of misplaced ego or pride. Jesus works for us…He serves us because He loves us and chooses us. Christ is saying to Peter and to each of us “Me for you”.

So why these two points?

1.  We have to be humble, we have to serve, and we have to be consistent for our kids. We have to love our wives in a way God has called us to so our boys will love/honor their mom and might one day love their wives that way…or so that our girls will know what a Godly husband looks like and seek out her own man who loves God before he loves her. These are two of many scenarios that apply. And we can be honest with ourselves and easily see if something is amiss in our behavior. If I see one of my boys quickly losing their temper or yelling at their siblings…I might want to consider if they learned that from me? Am I setting a bad example with how I control my temper or am I modeling patience and meekness? You get the picture. Think about it. How are you doing?

2.  Our children are little people and they develop their own personalities and their ego, hard-headedness, know-it-all, selfishness, etc. can keep them from seeing the service or leadership you are providing in humility and love…just like Peter didn’t quite understand what Jesus was doing. Does that mean we get mad and stop? No. We can be angry and disappointed…for sure…but we should strive to be righteous in that and remember that we are giving a little bit of ourselves…for them…because we love them and we want them to be safe…to be ok…to learn…to develop into what God calls them to be. And I have been told…when they get older and more mature…they will come to understand what we are doing just as Peter came to understand what Jesus was doing and how that shaped his life and ultimately the lives of others…for the sake of the Gospel.

So think about this. Think about your “demonstrated behavior over time”. Think about what might derail you from providing the kids in your life the modeled humble service they so very much need. Pray about it. Talk to brothers be vulnerable. We are in this together and we don’t always get it right…but we are called all the same to humble ourselves and serve…we could make the case our children need it the most…and we have an awesome example of all of this in Jesus.

The GOD of the Towel–Day 2

This week, we are considering Jesus’ act of humility and service in John 13:1-17 in the context of our lives as men. Humility is the key word I am inviting you to meditate upon this week.

What does the word mean? Humility is a freedom from arrogance that grows out of the recognition that all we have and are comes from God. The Greek philosophers despised humility because it implied inadequacy, lack of dignity, and worthlessness to them. This is not so with God. God calls us to be humble and the “meek’ are the ones to be victorious in Him. Jesus is the supreme example of humility, and He is completely adequate and of infinite dignity and worth. Biblical humility is not a belittling of oneself, but an exalting or praising of others, especially GOD (John 3:30; Philippians 2:3). A humble person, then, focuses more on God and others than on himself. Biblical humility is also a recognition that by ourselves we are inadequate, without dignity and worthless. Yet, because we are created in God’s image and because believers are in Christ, we have infinite worth and dignity (1 Peter 1:18-19). True humility does not produce pride but gratitude.

With all this in mind, are we humbling ourselves with our women? Whether it be our mom, or wife, or sister, or girlfriend, or fellow Christian or even those ladies we come into contact with our eyes…are we elevating God in our life and therefore humbling ourselves so that we can serve? There are a lot of snares Satan lays before us to keep us from this way of living. What might that look like?

Do we find the “needs” of the very person who has nurtured us through life inconvenient or bothersome? Do we keep lists or wrongs or do we keep lists of “all we have done” and think in our hearts “why can’t they do as good as I am?” Do we find those special quirks that are part of a special being God created annoying and avoid rather than celebrate? Are we “bossing” more than “leading” or “serving”? Do we allow our lust to color our view of women so that we miss the most important part…their souls? Are we more interested in being served, or entertained, or pleased than we are in filling ourselves with the humility of God demonstrated in Jesus so much so that we can’t help but let it pour out to those precious ladies God has blessed us with or has put in our way for one reason or another?

I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t have all this figured out? Even when I am doing my best, the snares Satan has laid before me are still there and if I lose focus, get tired, get annoyed, etc…that is when I step into one and it is a scary thing to be trapped by my own selfishness. In order to avoid this, my only hope is in Jesus. I need to abide in Him…fill my heart with His love and word, allow His Spirit to guide me while I continually commit myself to a heavenly perspective so that I can be a blessing today. God is both our Creator and Redeemer! Our existence…our righteousness…our ability to humbly serve the ladies in our lives is completely dependent on Him! (John 15:5; Acts 17:28; Ephesians 2:8-10).

Take some time and meditate on this today. Boldly go before your Father and ask Him to humble your heart and strengthen your service towards the women in your life. Be a blessing because you are blessed…and I am blessed in you. Lead on brothers!  Serve well!

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.