No one had the strength to subdue him

“He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.” Mark 5:3-5

No one could bind him…No one had the strength to subdue him. This man wasn’t fit to live among people. Only Jesus could heal what was wrong with this demon-possessed man. People of the village were trying to use their own strength to harness, control and stop this man, but it was the spirit inside that was giving the man this strength and destructive power.

The man didn’t need chains and shackles, they were useless. He needed Jesus. Look in Mark 5:1-20 to see how Jesus got inside of this man and changed him from the inside out. Once the man’s insides changed, then the outside reflected that spiritual transformation. This formerly demon-possessed man became a powerful evangelist for Jesus! But that didn’t happen until the demons within were cast out.

Again, it is Jesus that makes you and me fit to live among people. We may try to harness, manage or control the behavior and words of others, but it is Jesus that really has the power to release the “demon” within. Those “demons” can be things like guilt, past abuse, shame, addictions, etc. If we find ourselves breaking chains and shackles, going around in a rage, and cutting ourselves with stones, then the real problem is what is going on deep down inside of us. Until we truly get at peace with ourselves and with Jesus, then we will be like this man living in a cave howling at the moon.

In our relationships, we must focus more on root causes and not symptoms.

What does it mean to trust? Part 2

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
(1 Corinthians 13:7)

I will refer you back to Monday’s article for part 1 of “What does it mean to trust?” My daughter learned a lesson in trust when we were at the farm store the other day.  She saw the stock tanks that hold the baby chicks but did not trust me that the chicks were not in there. It wasn’t until she put her ear to the side of the tank that she “confirmed” that the chicks weren’t there.

What she was looking for was not there. It was an empty tank. I’ve been thinking about this even more in a lot of applications to our lives. What I’m looking for may end up being an empty tank. The tank promised to deliver something, but I didn’t trust my Father and in the end the tank was empty.

Pleasure. It may be that you think you are going to find relief, satisfaction and pleasure in excessive entertainment, immoral sexual behavior, or in substances like alcohol and other drugs. But in the end, God told you to trust Him, and you didn’t. You found an empty tank. What you were looking for wasn’t to be found. All of us can think of things that promised to make us happy and we ended up empty. Notice the following two passages from letters to Timothy. What was Timothy to “pursue”? From what was he to “flee”?

But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.
(1 Timothy 6:8-11)

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
(2 Timothy 2:22)

Knowledge. Some of us try so hard to find new ways to think about things. We really work hard to find things that our spiritual ancestors didn’t discover before. So much energy is exhausted to find new interpretations that “nobody has thought of before” (see Acts 17:21). In fact, we become so arrogant and smug in our pursuit of new ways to think that we spit on those who labored for years in study of God’s word to arrive at their conclusions. It might be that we have convinced ourselves that we are “testing all things,” but I believe we can be looking for something that God says isn’t there. We end up coming to an empty tank. The irony is that many times we arrive at the same conclusions our fathers did because those conclusions were solidly based on the word of God combined with years of experience.

Certainly, “test all things” as God tells you (1 Thessalonians 5:21). But have some humility, young men and women (1 Peter 5:5). You might be running toward an empty tank. What you thought was promising to be a wealth of overflowing knowledge may end up being a disappointing vacuous hole. Before you disregard the wisdom and wealth of study done by those who preceded you, trust that they may have some great insight to share.

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.
(1 Corinthians 8:1-2)

Are you trusting the Father? Or are you running toward an empty tank?

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.

Different, Not Wrong

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
(James 3:13-18)

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
(Hebrews 12:14)

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
(Romans 12:18)

Strive for peace. Be open to reason. Live peaceably with all men. Those are directives from Jesus, and they apply to marriage, don’t they?

Are there occasions where you and your wife fuss about things that are really a matter of opinion? Dumb question, I know we all do that from time to time. How the house gets cleaned, and in what order…opinion. Whether the toilet roll feeds from the top or the bottom of the roll…opinion. Do you squeeze the tube of toothpaste it the middle of the tube or from the end of it? Opinion.

It may be that you have a very passionate and convincing argument as to why things have to be a certain way, and you may be absolutely convinced you are right, but what if your wife has a different opinion? What if she makes decisions that are different that what you think should be done?

We should ask ourselves, is it wrong, or is it just different?

Do we find ourselves bringing up our viewpoints often in various ways to remind our wives that we don’t like their opinions and ways of doing things? Are we making fun of and using sarcasm to take shots and how they are doing things different than what we would do? Is this a control thing for you that you need to get right with Jesus? If so, then the spirit of Christ needs to rule in our hearts. His peace must also reign supreme. I believe that if we are truly at peace with God, then someone else’s alternative opinions and approaches would not bother us so much.

Before we say something or bring up how our wives do something different and not in line with our approach to things, let’s come to the throne room of God and ask for His wisdom and peace in the matter. How about talking to a wise godly brother in Christ and consulting him privately about it? And by the way, don’t just pick someone you know will agree with you. 🙂

Different is just that, it’s different. It might make you irritable or uncomfortable, and it might even challenge you to restudy your own convictions. But different many times is not wrong.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
(1 Peter 3:7)

What Do You Have When the Gifts Go Away?

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:8-13)

Love never ends, but the gifts will go away. Paul was seeking to show them a better and more excellent way, the way of love (1 Corinthians 12:31). The miraculous spiritual gifts that these brethren possessed would one day fade away. They were all in part, but the perfect word of God when completed would bring their gifts to fulfillment and would pass away. As we have the perfect completed word of God, we have no need of prophecy, tongues and miraculous knowledge. Those gifts all were part of bringing the whole revealed word to completion.

Paul’s illustration of the transition of a child into manhood helps explain the usefulness of those miraculous spiritual gifts during the infancy of the church. They didn’t have Matthew through Revelation, but now we do, and now every person can look into the perfect law of liberty (James 1:23-25). We can look into the mirror of the word and see plainly face to face the image of Christ and with the power of the Holy Spirit that word can transform us into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18).

So, the things that these brethren in Corinth were so focused on were temporary and were going to fade away. What they were not focused on was the love that never ends. They are not any different than you and me are they?

What do you have when the gifts and talents go away? If the things that you have that you really hold dear are taken away, what do you have left? Some have great looks, others have charm. Some are really financially savvy, and others are great working with their hands. There are those who are super intelligent and can solve really complex problems. Some guys are great with words, while others have incredible physical and athletic abilities. Again, what happens when those gifts and talents go away?

What do you have left? Do you have love? If all your gifts, talents and abilities are gone, what are you left with?

Go back to the earlier section of 1 Corinthians 13. Are you patient and kind, or are you arrogant and rude? Do you hope for the best or look for the worst in people? Are you irritable and resentful or do you bear, believe, hope and endure all things? Would you be described as someone who always has to be right and insists on his or her own way? Or would you be described as someone who rejoices with the truth, and does so without envying or boasting?

When the abilities go away, do you have love?

“Pursue love…” (1 Corinthians 14:1)

What Love Is and What Love Isn’t

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Please meditate upon this section of Scripture today. Below are some simple questions and commonly used approaches to this text, but they are helpful to ask ourselves. We all need to reconnect with this passage occasionally.  I know I do. It certainly would help to read it everyday.

  • What is love? What are some things love is NOT? It certainly is not a feeling, is it? This is about rising above your feelings and doing what is right regardless of how you feel.
  • How does Jesus/God demonstrate these qualities? Look throughout Scripture and consider your own relationship with God as well. How do you see God being kind? Was Jesus arrogant and rude? Aren’t you glad that He doesn’t keep a score on you? Your record of sins has been washed away by the blood of Jesus because of His great unfailing love for you.
  • Do I have these qualities of love in my heart? Am I patient? Am I kind or am I rude? Do I insist on my own way? Am I irritable or resentful? Is my goal to be right or to be reconciled with my loved ones? Do I keep score in relationships? Am I happy when someone messes up so I can have an, “Aha! Gotcha!” moment? Do I look for the good in people or do I work up the worst possible motives about them in my mind? Am I hopeful for the best outcome in relationships?
  • Can I visualize how these qualities of love would look in my relationships? How do I specifically live out these qualities? What about when my wife gets snippy because she’s under a lot of stress? How do I talk to that person at work who is always self-centered, worldly and rude? What about the person under my authority who questions my decisions and approaches? How do I respond? How would I begin a conversation with someone that I am odds with if I had this kind of love working in my heart and soul?

Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old (Psalm 25:6).

Though I…But Have Not Love

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
(1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

5 times (if I counted right) in this section of Scripture Paul used the phrase, “Though I.” Though I possess and did all of these wonderful, spiritual and godly things, but did not have love, what are they worth?

If you saw someone speak with the all the languages of the world miraculously, what would you think? What if he or she spoke with the language of angels? Would you be impressed? How about if the person was so gifted that he or she understood all mysteries of the Bible and had perfect knowledge of it? Would it get your attention? What if their faith was stronger than anyone you had ever seen? Would you think, wow that person is so close to God? Would you be impressed if that person gave everything he or she owned including the body to be sacrificed for Jesus? How would we see that person?

Paul gives us some insight into this much needed discussion. He tells us that we could be incredibly gifted and our words just come out as noise if we don’t have love. We could be so full of knowledge and understanding that people are constantly coming to us for advice and perspective. But we are absolutely “nothing” Paul wrote if we don’t have love. Our mountain-moving faith is made of no value if it is not joined with the love of God in our hearts. We could list a thousand things that we did for Jesus and for others, but if we are not loving to others, then that list isn’t worth the paper it is written on.

But have not love – 3 times Paul used this phrase and when he used it, he followed it with:

  • I am noise – My gifted words for Jesus are just noise.
  • I am nothing – My gifts, including my mountain-moving faith that I may hold in such high esteem are of no value at all.
  •  All my sacrifice and works are nothing. I can heap up acts of service and godly deeds to the sky, but if I am not loving, then it amounts to a pile of dung. In fact, the pile of dung is of more value because it can at least be spread out for fertilizer.

Doesn’t that impress upon you and me how important and valuable love is?

We are going to look further into 1 Corinthians 13 over the next few days and seek with God’s help to glean as much as we can from this timeless and priceless passage on love.

Fathers Teach not Provoke

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

This verse comes on the heels of Paul’s teaching to children to obey their parents in everything. The standard is clearly set for children in our homes just as the standard is clearly set for each of in the family of God…obey! Guess what…just like us…our children don’t always get it right and disobey and sin. The result…grief. With this in mind, what is Paul teaching us fathers?

Notice first that “fathers” are directed in this command. Paul knows how to say parents because he did so in verse 1. Why are fathers singled out? Ephesians 5:23 tells us that husbands are declared by God to be the head of the family and therefore responsible and accountable for what happens in the family. Fathers are to have an active role in the family, particularly in raising the children. Additionally, fathers are going to be challenged to not act in anger toward the children. There is a reason God says this to the men. The intention seems clear that this is an issue that we must be aware of. Fathers are going to have the temptation to provoke the children to anger.

Children test our patience, our will, and our authority as fathers. They grieve us, however, the command rules out excessively severe discipline/consequences, unreasonably harsh demands, abuse of authority, being unfair, nagging, being humiliating, etc. Children are persons in their own right and are not be manipulated, exploited, or crushed. Our Father is loving, graceful, merciful and long suffering…we must be the same with our children. With that said, this does not mean we allow our children to run the household. Children are not the head of the family.

The answer to the challenge of parenting…to fathering…is not to let the children do what they want. Verse 4 tells us fathers to raise our children and to not provoke them…both are required. So how might we do this? We might start with saying “no” with a reason. It is easy to just say “no”. But think about the frustration, confusion, and disappointment our child might experience if we do not explain the reason or make the “no” inconsistent with how we live. This is especially important with our children who are old enough to reason with and to make every effort with each “teachable” moment. Our Father teaches us with “no” and His consistent and Holy will gives us confidence “no” is right and best.

Please don’t misunderstand me…there are times as Godly fathers when our rule or word must simply be enforced. What I emphasizing here is we cannot let our attitude always be “my way or the highway”. The word “discipline” speaks to the activity of the education. Some translations rightly read, “training.” This is active and it is a partnership with our children. “Our way or the highway” all the time is not “parenting” or “teaching” or “leading”…that is simply “bossing”…and our God does not love us or raise us that way.

I know we all want our children to safe and in the loving care of our Heavenly Father because that is what they choose to be. I know we want our children to have the life skills to be independent of us when they leave our home. Fathers, we have a job to raise our children so that when they turn 18 they can live life independent of us but are especially dependent on our Heavenly Father! We must show them that we desire God and find our joy in God. What we are doing is not an activity as if God is something to do. We desire these things because this is the whole life and joy.

(NOTE: These thoughts were amplified by a sermon by Brent Kercheville from West Palm Beach CoC; 2014.)

Video by Simon Sinek about Success in the Workplace

This is a video by Simon Sinek that a friend, Andy, sent me awhile back. He addresses the millennial generation, and covers some topics that are worth considering. These things he discusses do not apply only to the millennial generation, they apply to all of us, especially when he talks about addiction to cell phones, technology and social media.

This is something that parents should consider and keep in mind when raising their sons and daughters who are surrounding with social media and technology.

Remember that just like anything, including these articles I send out, check them with the Word of God.

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.