One mindset inherits the Kingdom – James 2:5

Question: Why are the poor so rich in faith? Is it because they are poor? Answer: I think so.

Does that mean I need to be financially without to be rich in faith? Answer: Maybe… Maybe not…

Question: Why are the poor so rich in faith?  Is it because they are poor?   Answer: I think so.

Does that mean I need to be financially without to be rich in faith?  Answer: Maybe… Maybe not…

James 2:5 (NLT) – “Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters.  Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith?  Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him?

Why?

When I close my eyes and imagine the preceding verses (James 2:1-4), I imagine the poor to look a lot like what I see when I see homeless people.  I know that’s not always what the poor look like in this day and age.  Perhaps that’s a bit of prejudice I need to work through, but that’s not the point I’m making here.  I imagine the scene James describes in verses 1-4 with a well-dressed and known to be successful business person and a homeless person.  That homeless person is dirty, disheveled, wearing ratty and mismatched and ill-fitting clothes.  The homeless person also has the stench that comes along with living in the streets and not having the ability to bathe every day.

That’s the picture from which I write and from which God spoke to me in this verse.

Why are the poor rich in faith?  I believe their situation in life has left them with no alternative but to completely trust in God for every single thing we take for granted.  A legitimately poor person doesn’t know from where his or her next meal will come.  A poor person doesn’t know how they will feed their family.  A poor person doesn’t know what the next hour, much less what the next day, will hold.  They simply exist now and trust in God to make the way for whatever their next step is.

They literally trust in God for everything.

Isn’t that exactly how the Lord Jesus has called us to live?  Aren’t we supposed to die to ourselves (Gal 2:20)?  Aren’t we in essence – no, in reality – supposed to depend on God for every next step? That implies that we take on the mindset of dependence as if we are poor… as if we are homeless…

Matthew 5:3 (NLT)God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

 

Discussion: Leave your comment below and share how this practically works in your life….

 

Running After Papa…

 

Free Indeed (John 8:36)

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36, NIV) So, how does Jesus set us free? …

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36, NIV)

How does Jesus set us free?

1 Peter 5:8 tells me that my enemy is relentless . He is continually after you and me.  His methods have not changed since The Fall.  He knows those “barbs” and those “hooks” he can toss out our way and when you or I respond or react or agree with them – BAM! He comes in like a flood.   He is the master deceiver.  John 8:44 tells us his native tongue is falsehood.  He is a liar.  That is who he is. So every morning when you and I wake up, our enemy is looking for some deception for us to grab ahold of; some falsehood of who we are; some fallacy saying that WHAT WE DID is WHO WE ARE; some cock-and-bull story about some bondage we’ll never shake, some addiction we’ll never kick, some fear we’ll never be rid of. ALL OF IT LIES.  He just wants you and me to agree with him on something.

Jesus said “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  Jesus said it. So I ask again… How does Jesus set you and me free?  Enter Galatians 2:20:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.(Gal 2:20, NASB)

Check this out. If I am dead. What power does my enemy hold over me? I am dead. What power does any thing hold over me? What power does any addiction, any fear, any bondage hold over me? None. I am dead.

That, my friend, is good news.

I was driving to our men’s Bible Study on Thursday morning knowing I was going to share the gist of this revelation during worship. I really began to contemplate and expound on the effects of being crucified… of being dead to myself.

Dead men…

  • … don’t have any rights to get stepped on
  • … don’t have any expectations to go unmet
  • … don’t have any fears to bind them
  • … can’t worry about yesterday, today or tomorrow
  • … can’t compare their lives to those around them
  • … can’t carry the weight of the world
  • … can’t believe the lies of the enemy

… and as I was enumerating this list, God said something kinda funny but poignant.  He said that dead men can’t believe the lies of the enemy because “DEAD MEN CANNOT HEAR” and I kinda laughed, but realized that is HUGE!  This is a big deal because not only is my enemy a LIAR, when I am dead – I CANNOT HEAR HIS LIES.

This is a really great litmus test.  If I am responding to my enemy’s relentless attack, their lies about who I am, or what I will or will never be, etc., etc.  – then SOME PART OF MY FLESH HAS CRAWLED OFF THE CROSS.

I have more thoughts stirring on this… stay tuned.

Running After Papa…

A checklist for living

Romans 12:9-18 (Various translations)

As I read, and re-read, and re-read, and looked at the Greek meanings of some of the words, I kept hearing “I put this stuff here for a reason… read it… learn it… live it.”  So given that, I’m going to take different phrases from different translations to make a “checklist” of sorts on the how we are to live this life with each other.

  • Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. (The Message)
  • Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. (NKJV)
  • Love one another with brotherly affection (ESV)
  • Outdo one another in showing honor (ESV) / Practice playing second fiddle (The Message)
  • Never be lazy but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically (NLT)
  • Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (ESV)
  • When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. (NLT)
  • Be inventive in hospitality. (The Message)
  • Bless those who persecute you [who are cruel in their attitude toward you] (The Amplified Bible)
  • no cursing under your breath (The Message)
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. (ESV)
  • Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. (The Message)
  • Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is honest and proper and noble [aiming to be above reproach] in the sight of everyone. (The Amplified Bible)
  • If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (NIV)

What else really needs to be said except I have a REALLY long way to go…  Some of these I’m doing OK in.  Some of these – you would think – I’ve never seen before.  It’s a love/hate thing.  I love when these lists are put in there for us to grow into and I hate seeing how far short I fall.  Thank you Lord that you love me anyway and that I can’t do any of it on my own.  All I can do is surrender and allow Him to live these things through me (Gal 2:20).

My measure of faith…

Romans 12:3 (ESV) For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

It’s interesting to read this verse. For several months, the Lord has been swatting me like I swat my dog with a newspaper. He get’s my attention every time I say something derogatory or “down” on anyone – particularly those that SOME might call “idiots” or “in-bred morons” – as my earthly father likes to say. Any time I have a thought about the stupidity or aloofness of someone else, Papa get’s my attention and asks me a very serious question. “Do you think you’re any better?

In stupidity, I used to answer “Well.. yeah… blah blah blah!”  Where I would wax poetics about all the stuff I do for Him – like He doesn’t see or hear or know already.  I’d tell him about how much I love and serve Him, my wife, my family, blah, blah, blah.  But thankfully, He didn’t just zap me and put me out of my misery, instead he reminds me of Isaiah 64:6 “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…”  It’s a pretty effective tool to be reminded that Papa is SO HOLY that no matter what awesome things I do, I’m bringing soiled feminine products to Him as a gift.

This all started with the reading of a book that totally changed the way I think and outside of the Holy Bible, has impacted me more than any other book I’ve ever read. Humility by Andrew Murray is that book. That book has forced me to reconsider who I am and who He is. In the light of Him – which, by the way, is the only true measurement – I am nothing and I am no better than anyone else. Jesus loves everyone else just as much as He loves me. Every one of us are His favorite.

This verse is a great reminder of that truth, that I need to remember. I love the way Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message.

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. (Romans 12:3, The Message)

It’s all about Him. It ain’t about me. The part I don’t understand is the last sentence of the ESV version. “…but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” What is that about? How I view myself – how soberly I judge myself – is somehow connected or related to how much faith I have been given? Wow. That’s an interesting thought.

If I’ve been apportioned faith, does that apportionment ever increase or decrease? If so, how? Interesting study this will be…

Am I choosing who I'm serving?

Matt 25:34-40 (NLT)
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ 37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

Jesus taught in parables his entire ministry. It would be interesting to see how many of his teachings were ONLY face value. With that in mind, I started thinking differently about this teaching when I these verses this morning. What if this was not only the lesson of “to the least of these,” but what if there is more?

Could each example be a different kind of person in differing stages or seasons of their spiritual life?

Hungry: Those purposing to be transformed. They have moved from spiritual milk to spiritual food and they yearn for it.
Thirsty: 1. Those spiritual babes still on the spiritual milk; 2. Those who yet have drunk the Living Water from Jesus.
Stranger: Those who feel unwelcome or rejected by the Church. Those who consider themselves outcasts.
Naked: Those plagued by shame. Those who feel vulnerable and exposed and unprotected.
Sick: Those spiritually sick and misguided from the Truth of the Gospel.
Imprisoned: Those who are in bondage by the enemy. Those who feel isolated and rejected by society. Those who are rebelling against God.

I’ve been each one of these at some time in my life. It almost seems like a reverse progression.

I was imprisoned and in bondage to my sin and pride. My sin made me sick and clouded my vision of who Jesus was and who I was in Christ. I was naked and shamed by my sin. I thirsted for relationship with Christ and I am hungry for more of Him.  Could it be that because I’ve been through each of these, God wants to use those experiences to minister to others in those same places?

I don’t know what this means to me yet. I don’t know why Papa put it on my heart, but I felt compelled to share and would like to banter about this idea.

I feel challenged to identify those people that I know who are currently in one of those places and purpose to minister to them where they are. Who are the hungry in my life and what am I doing to feed them? Who are the thirsty in my life and am I giving them them a drink? Who are the strangers in my life and am I welcoming to them? Who are the naked in my life and what am I clothing them with? Who are the sick in my life and am I comforting them? Who are the imprisoned in my life and am I visiting them and just loving on them with the Love of God? Now, the bigger question… am I choosing (or am I picky about) who I’m serving? OUCH! That hurt.

The overlying message is still “to the least of these,” which is humility, service, and expressing His love to others. This is an overriding lesson Father has been teaching me for the last few years.

Dad, let me serve everyone you put in my life with humility and love.  May I show them You and not me.  In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Husband 101 – Part 5

I started this yesterday – and posted it to Running After Papa – but I added more as I mulled over the passages again.  I may later post something on my continued journey through Romans.  If you want to read Parts 1-4 of this series, its at http://runningafterpapa.blogspot.com.  Part 1 starts in October 2008.

Ephesians 5:25 ESV Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

This will be the final post in this series.  I want to explore a couple of words in this verse that have changed the way I understand and respond to this verse.  The first word is “as” and is used “… as Christ…”  This little word delivers a big meaning for me.  Look at how Strong’s defines it:

1 according as;  1A just as, even as; 1B in proportion as, in the degree that.

Look at 1B, “in proportion as“, or “in the degree that.”  Just inserting it into the verse changes it.  “… love your wives, in proportion as Christ loved the church…”

The second word is “gave.”  The idea of the word here is to give into the hands of another.  Its the same idea behind the word betray.  Inserting this thought into the verse would render it something like this.  “… and gave himself into the hands of another for her,…”

Interesting thought.  It just implies giving up ones self.  We know Christ gave himself to be beaten, scourged, ridiculed, and crucified, but he also gave of himself, 24×7.  When Jesus goes off to pray, it’s always in the wee hours of the morning.  I wonder if that’s because that was the only time he had for himself, because he gave his life away… literally.  He gave every moment of his life away.

Dr. Benjamin B. Phillips of Southwestern Theological Seminary wrote this in his Practical Theology class Spring 2007:

As recipients of God’s love we are expected to love (Matthew 5:44-48).   An example of this is in marriage. Husbands are to love their wives like Christ love the church. (Eph. 5:25). The word love in this instance is agape, which means seeking the highest good for another person. This love is revealed in the death and resurrection to life in Jesus Christ (1 John 4:9-11).  In our marriages we should not withhold love or affection because of circumstances that may arise. We must continue to love no matter how we are treated by our neighbor we must still love and be perfect, just as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48). Our love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8-10).

This is how I am called to love my wife.  “… in the degree that Christ loved the church…”.

Here’s another point.  The church – the very one Christ gave his life for – is the very same church that beat him, scourged him, hated him, rejected him, and ultimately crucified him.  Hosea, by God’s calling, marries a prostitute and redeems her over and over to draw the picture of exactly what Christ did for the church.

This is how I am called to love my wife.  “… in the degree that Christ loved the church…”.

How does that look?  Its different for every husband.  Maybe its making the bed every moment.  Maybe its getting her a glass of water, even when it’s not a commercial.  Maybe its as Peter admonishes us:

1 Peter 3:7 (NLT) In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

Again, Dr. Phillips wrote this in his Practical Theology classes of Fall 2007 and Spring 2007, respectively:

As we examine the practical side of holiness we see that husbands must have an unselfish attitude towards their wives.  Christ gave himself to the church unselfishly and husband must do the same with their wives. Husbands should be self-sacrificing and giving, Jesus Christ extended the greatest act of sacrifice and the giving of himself at Calvary.  Husbands are to be nourishing, cherishing as the Lord is to the church. Paul address the Colossians, he told the husbands, “husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them” (Colossians 3:19). He told them not to be harsh with them, which is not a sign of holiness. …  Jesus Christ loves the church so much that he caused himself to identify with it. To love our wives as Christ loves the church means to identify with them. Peter tells the husband that their relationship with their wives are so important that it effects there communication line with God, … The man of God must protect his family, to assist their personal growth. Christ’s goal for the church is to make her holy, “that he might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26).

In Ephesians 5, especially verses 25-27, Paul also contrasts the husband’s relationship with his wife with that of Christ with the  church.  Christ came to serve the church and to die for the church.  This is what Paul is calling the husbands to do for their wives.  The husbands should also be willing to put the needs of their wives before their own.  The husband’s role as head is a sacrificial one that should imitate how Christ loved his bride, the church.

I know partly what it looks like at my house (mostly because I don’t have it figured out yet).  I know this.  I have become a student of my wife.  I have looked with different and opened eyes at her and watched her… learning how I can better serve her and live with her with understanding.

This is how I am called to love my wife.  “… in the degree that Christ loved the church…”.

I have said too much…

Click to see Job 40:3-5

Job has just spent the last 2 chapters getting absolutely pasted by the Lord.

Granted, there is NO WAY I could have maintained my integrity and not sinned against the Lord with my mouth had I just been through what Job had been through for the last 38 chapters.  But this is his response.

I am nothing… I will cover my mouth with my hand… I have said too much already.  I have nothing more to say,” in all humility and reverence to the Lord God Almighty.  Then God goes on for the rest of Chapter 40 and all of 41 all up in Job’s business.  I’m sure God would have just struck me dead.  One big lighting bolt from nowhere.  ZZZZAPPP!

This is an exercise I need to practice.  Putting my hand on my mouth, especially when I deal with my family and specifically my kids.  Oh the words that I say!

Father, close my mouth like you closed the mouthes of the lions when Daniel was in the den.  I surrender my tongue to You.  You use it for your glory, not my satisfaction.  In Jesus name.  Amen.